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Peer Gynt was written in 1 867, when Ibsen was nearly forty. It followed 
his other great dramatic poem, Brand, by rather less than two years 
for Brand, though not published till 1866, was written in 1865. The 
contrast offered by the audacious high spirits of Peer Gynt to the austere 
gloom of Brand was a reflection of a welcome change in their author's 
worldly circumstances. Ibsen's growing independence of thought and 
his increasing frankness in insisting upon it (as he had done in his play 
Loves Comedy) had aroused a tempest of criticism in his own country, 
and in 1864 he had cast off the embarrassing trammels of national and 
family ties and had gone into voluntary exile in Italy. This had been 
rendered possible by a small grant of money that had been awarded 
him by the Norwegian Government and substantially supplemented 
by the kindness of one or two friends. Brand was the first outcome of 
his detachment from real poverty. It to a great extent rehabilitated 
his repute at home, and put some money in his pocket ; and this success 
further resulted in the Norwegian Government's allotting him a * liter- 
ary pension ' of some ninety pounds a year. This sum, together with 
what he expected to make by his pen, opened out a prospect of a life of 
literary activity unhampered by continual anxiety as to his daily bread. 
Peer Gynt obviously was written when his temperament was on the 
rebound and he was beginning to feel assurance that he could be as 
independent in thought and word as he pleased. It was conceived (as 
he says in a letter to Bjornson) in the mood of a ' Korstog-Jubel ' a 
' Crusader's Song of Triumph.' " After Brand came Peer Gynt, as though 
of itself," he says in another letter ; l " it was written in Southern Italy, in 

1 I quote from Mary Morison's translation of Ibsen's correspondence, published in 1905. 


Peer Gynt 

the Island of Ischia and at Sorrento. So far away from one's future 
readers, one becomes reckless." Again, in a letter written some five 
years after Peer Gynt appeared, he says : "Peer Gynt is the very antithesis 
of Brand. ... It is reckless and formless, written with no thought of 
the consequences as I could only dare to write when far from my 
own country." 

In 1880 Ibsen replied to one of his translators, who had asked for 
information as to the genesis of Peer Gynt in its author's brain : " To 
make the matter intelligible I should have to write a whole book, and 
for that the time has not yet come. Everything that I have written has 
the closest possible connection with what I have lived through, even 
if it has not been my own personal experience ; in every new poem or 
play I have aimed at my own spiritual emancipation and purification." 
As a matter of fact, one of the outstanding features of Peer Gynt the 
character of Aase, Peer's mother, and the incidents woven round her 
was, as we learn from Ibsen's letters, derived directly from his own 
experiences. "This poem," he wrote to his friend Hansen in 1870, 
" contains much that is reminiscent of my own youth ; for Aase my 
mother with necessary exaggerations served as model." Again, in a 
letter written to Brandes in 1882, he says : "My father was a merchant 
with a large business and wide connections, and he enjoyed dispensing 
reckless hospitality. In 1836 he failed, and nothing was left to us except 
a farm. ... In writing Peer Gynt I had the circumstances and memories 
of my own childhood before me when I described the life in the house 
of * the rich John Gynt.' ' 

With its obvious satire on the typical Norwegian temperament, as 
well as on what Ibsen considered a ridiculous aspiration for "national 
self-realization," it is not surprising that Peer Gynt was not at first as 
popular in Norway as Brand had been. Seven editions of Brand had 
appeared before Peer Gynt reached its third. In 1876 Ibsen prepared 
an abridged version of Peer Gynt for representation at the Christiania 



theatre, where it was performed with Grieg's incidental music ; and 
by degrees it became a stock feature in the repertories of the chief 
Scandinavian theatres. The earliest German translation of the poem 
was published in 1881 ; the first English in 1892; and the first French 
in 1896. 

Peer Gynt is (as Ibsen was emphatic in asserting) first and foremost 
a poetic fantasy, and only incidentally a satire. It is a fantasy woven out 
of the folklore of its author's country and embroidered by his wealth 
of thought and keen wit. There is a philosophy to be found in it, no 
doubt ; but Ibsen did not set out to write a philosophical poem, but 
a fantasy. It contains many a shaft of satire, no doubt; but it was 
not primarily intended as a satirical poem, but as sheer fantasy. This 
cannot be too emphatically insisted upon, or too diligently remem- 
bered in reading the poem. In a letter to his publisher, soon after Peer 
Gynt had made its appearance, Ibsen wrote : " I learn that the book has 
created great excitement in Norway. This does not trouble me in the 
least ; but both there and in Denmark they have discovered much more 
satire in it than was intended by me. Why can they not read the book 
as a poem? For as such I wrote it. The satirical passages are pretty 
well isolated. But if the Norwegians of to-day recognize themselves, 
as it would appear they do, in the character of Peer Gynt, that is the 
good people's own affair." 

Peer Gynt has been the prey of many commentators ; and of the 
majority of them the question might well be asked : " Why can you not 
read it as a fantasy? For as such Ibsen wrote it." Ibsen himself ruefully 
complained more than once that his critics persisted in reading far more 
into his work than he had intentionally put there ; and Peer Gynt has 
been a sufferer in this respect. The wise reader, approaching the poem 
for the first time, will simply abandon himself or herself to the current of 
fancy now laughing, now tender, now ironical that sweeps through 
it ; remembering that it is folklore, and the folklore of a people to 


Peer Gynt 

whose peasantry trolls and witches are even to-day a reality. There are 
isolated difficulties to be encountered in the reading, no doubt an 
attempt has been made to touch on some of them in footnotes to the 
present translation but, in the main, if the poem be read with an 
appreciation of its origin and intention, and with a modicum of common 
sense, its fantasy need not unduly bewilder nor its philosophy unduly 
puzzle. Even caprice is permissible in a fantasy ; Ibsen, on being asked 
if he corroborated a suggested explanation of a certain scene in Peer 
Gynt, replied that nothing had been farther from his thoughts than what 
his commentator suggested, and that he had as a matter of fact "stuck 
in the scene as a mere caprice." 

In sending his publishers the manuscript of the poem Ibsen wrote : 
" It may interest you to know that Peer Gynt was a real person, who lived 
in Gudbrandsdal, probably at the end of last, or the beginning of this, 
century. His name is still [ 1 867] well known among the peasants there ; 
but of his exploits not much more is known than is to be found in 
Asbjornsen's Norwegian Fairy Tales. . . . Thus I have not had very much 
to build upon, but that has left me so much the more liberty." In 
Asbjornsen's book Peer Gynt's chief exploits lie in the direction of 
fighting and conquering trolls. 

It is practically impossible for any translation of Peer Gynt to be 
entirely satisfactory. It must be in verse ; a prose version of such a 
fantasy is unthinkable even if it were not for the fact that its author 
declared that he would rather never see it translated than translated 
into prose. One of the charms of the diction of the original is the 
ingenious variation of metre for scenes of varying nature ; that, trans- 
lation may attempt to reproduce ; but the ingenuity of its rhymes 
cannot be reproduced, and its verbal brilliance must be dulled, in 

The present translator has deliberately avoided two shackling con- 
ditions which, it is permissible to think, have hampered previous 



translators of the poem: he has not attempted rhymed verse, and he 
has refused to be fettered by a superstitious regard for purely verbal 
literalness or for ' line for line ' rendering. He has made an attempt to 
follow the metres of the original, in unrhymed verse, keeping as closely 
to the original's literal meaning as was compatible with intelligibility 
in another tongue his aim being to produce a version that might be 
read with sufficient ease to induce appreciation of this amazing work ; 
and appreciation of Peer Gynt is bound to lead to admiration of it. 




AASE, widow of John Gynt, a peasant 

PEER GYNT, her son 


ASLAK, a blacksmith 



SOLVEIG AND LITTLE HELGA, their daughters 


INGRID, his daughter 






KARI, a cotter's wife 



ANITRA, daughter of a Bedouin chief 



PROFESSOR BEGRIFFENFELDT, Ph.D., in charge of the Lunatic Asylum at Cairo 


HUHU, a language-reformer from the Malabar coast 

A FELLAH, carrying a royal mummy 

HUSSEIN, an Eastern Secretary of State 




The action, which begins in the early years of the nineteenth century and ends 

somewhere about 1867, takes place partly in the Gudbrandsdal and on the surrounding 

mountain-tops, partly on the coast of Morocco, in the Sahara Desert, in the Cairo 

Lunatic Asylum, at sea, etc. 



The wooded mountain-side near AASE's/0rw, with a stream rushing past. 

On the farther bank stands an old mill. It is a hot summer s day. 

PEER GYNT, a sturdy youth of twenty, comes down the path, 

followed by his mother AASE, who is short and slight. She is 

scolding him angrily. 

AASE. Peer, you're lying ! 

PEER GYNT [without stopping]. No, I'm not! 

AASE. Well, then, will you swear it's true ? 

PEER GYNT. Swear ? Why should I ? 

AASE. Ah, you daren't ! 

Your whole tale's a pack of lies ! 
PEER GYNT. Every blessed word is true ! 
AASE [facing him]. I wonder you can face your mother! 

First of all, just when the work 

Is at busiest, off you go 

To prowl about the hills for weeks 

After reindeer in the snow ; 

Come back with your clothes in rags, 

Game-bag empty and no gun ! 

Then you have the cheek to think 

You can make your mother swallow 

Such a pack of lies as this 

About your hunting ! Tell me, then, 

Where you found this precious buck ? 
PEER GYNT. West of Gendin. 
AASE [with a scornful laugh]. I dare say! 

Peer Gynt 

PEER GYNT. I was leeward of the blast, 

And behind a clump of trees 

He was scraping in the snow 

For some moss 

AASE [as before]. Oh, yes, no doubt! 

PEER GYNT. I stood and listened, held my breath, 

Heard the scraping of his hoof, 

Saw the antlers of his horns ; 

Then upon my belly crawled 

Carefully between the rocks ; 

Peeped from cover of the stones 

Such a buck, so sleek and fat, 

I suppose was never seen ! 
AASE. I expect not ! 
PEER GYNT. Then I fired! 

Down the buck came on the ground ! 

But the moment he had fallen 

I was up astride his back, 

On his left ear got my grip, 

And was just in act of thrusting 

With my knife into his gullet 

Just behind his head when, hi ! 

With a scream the ugly beggar 

Scrambled up upon his feet. 

From my hand his sudden back-throw 

Jerked my hunting-knife and scabbard, 

Pinned me to his loins and held me 

By the legs between his antlers 

Like a pair of mighty pincers ; 

Then he rushed with bounds gigantic 

Right along the ridge of Gendin ! 


Peer Gynt 

AASE [involuntarily]. Christ in Heaven! 

PEER GYNT. Have you ever 

Been upon the ridge of Gendin ? 

Fully half a mile it stretches, 

At the top as sheer and narrow 

As a scythe-blade. Looking downward 

Past the slopes and past the glaciers, 

Past the grey ravines and gullies 

Either side you see the water 

Wrapped in dark and gloomy slumber 

Half a mile at least beneath you. 
Right along it he and I 
Clove our passage through the air. 
Never rode I such a steed ! 

Far ahead the peaks were sparkling 

As we rushed along. Beneath us 

In the void the dusky eagles 

Fell away like motes in sunshine ; 

You could see the ice-floes breaking 

On the banks, yet hear no murmur. 

But the sprites that turn us dizzy 

Danced and sang and circled round us 

I could hear and seemed to see them ! 
AASE [swaying as if giddy]- Heaven help us! 
PEER GYNT. On a sudden, 

On the precipice's edge, 

From the hole where it lay hidden 

Almost at the reindeer's feet, 

Up a ptarmigan rose, cackling, 

Flapping with its wings in terror. 

Then the reindeer, madly swerving, 


Peer Gynt 

Gave a bound sky-high that sent us 

Plunging o'er the edge and downwards. 

[AASE totters and grasps a tree-trunk. PEER GYNT continues. 

Gloomy precipice behind us ! 

Fathomless abyss below us ! 

First through clouds of mist we hurtled, 

Then a flock of gulls we scattered 

Wheeling through the air and screaming. 
Downward still and ever downwards ! 

But beneath us something glistened 

Whitish, like a reindeer's belly. 

Mother, 'twas our own reflection 

Mirrored in the lake beneath us, 

Rushing up, it seemed, to meet us 

Just as swiftly and as madly 

As we downwards rushed towards it. 
AASE [gasping for breath]. Peer! God help me! Tell me 

quickly ! 
PEER GYNT. Buck from air and buck from water 

Met with mighty splash together, 

Scattering the foam around us. 

Then at last we somehow managed 

To the northern shore to struggle ; 

Buck, he swam and dragged me after 

So I got home 

AASE. But where's the reindeer ? 

PEER GYNT. I expect he's where I left him 

[Snaps his fingers, turns on his heel, and adds: 

If you find him you may keep him ! 
AASE. And your neck you haven't broken ? 

Nor your legs ? Nor smashed your backbone ? 


Peer Gynt 

Praise and thanks to God be given 

For His goodness that has saved you ! 

There's a rent across your breeches, 

It is true ; but that is scarcely 

Worth a mention when one thinks 

What the harm might well have been 

From a leap like that of yours 

[She suddenly pauses, stares at him with open mouth, seems to 
struggle for speech, and at last breaks out. 

Oh, you lying little devil ! 

Christ above us, what a liar ! 

All that rigmarole you told me 

Is the tale of Gudbrand Glesne * 

That I heard when I was twenty. 

'Twas to him that all this happened, 

Not to you, you 

PEER GYNT. Yes, it did ; 

History repeats itself. 
AASE. Lies, I know, can be so furbished 

And disguised in gorgeous wrappings 

That their skinny carcasses 

Not a soul would recognize. 

That's what you've been doing now, 

With your wonderful adventures 

Eagles' wings, and all that nonsense 

Making up a pack of lies, 

Tales of breathless risk and danger, 

Till one can no longer tell 

What one knows and what one doesn't. 

1 The tale is told in Asbjornsen's Norske Huldre-Eventyr, from another tale in which 
collection Ibsen derived the germ of his ' Peer Gynt ' idea. 


Peer Gynt 

PEER GYNT. If a man said that to me 

I would beat him to a jelly. 
AASE [in tears] . Would to God that I were dead 

And buried in the cold black earth ! 

Prayers and tears have no effect. 

You're a hopeless ne'er-do-well ! 
PEER GYNT. Dearest, pretty little mother, 

Every word you say is true ; 

So be gay and happy 

AASE. Pshaw ! 

Don't talk nonsense. How could I 

Be happy, if I wanted to, 

With such a pig as you for son ? 

Don't you think it's pretty hard 

For a poor weak widow never 

To feel anything but shame? [Weeps again. 

How much is there left of all 

That your grandfather enjoyed 

In his days of comfort ? Where 

Are the well-filled money-bags 

Left by good old Rasmus Gynt ? 

'Twas your father emptied them, 

Pouring money out like sand 

Buying land in all directions 

Gilded coach to ride about in. 

Where's the stuff so freely wasted 

At the famous winter banquet, 

When each guest sent glass and bottle 

Crash against the wall behind him ? 
PEER GYNT. Where are the snows of yester-year ? 
AASE. Hold your tongue when I am speaking ! 


Peer Gynt 

See the farmhouse scarce a window 

But is smashed and stuffed with dish-clout ; 

Scarce a hedge or fence is standing ; 

No protection for the cattle 

From the wind and wet ; the meadows 

And the fields all lying fallow ; 

Every month distraint on something 

PEER GYNT. That's enough of dismal wailing ! 

Often when our luck's been drooping 

It has grown as strong as ever. 
AASE. Where it grew the soil is poisoned. 

Peer, you certainly don't lack 

Good opinion of yourself. 

You are just as brisk and bumptious, 

Just as pert, as when the Parson 

Who had come from Copenhagen 

Asked you what your Christian name was, 

Telling you that where he came from 

Lots of men of highest station 

Would be glad to be as clever ; 

And your father was so grateful 

For his amiable praises 

That a horse and sledge he gave him. 

Ah, me ! All went well in those days. 

Parsons, Captains, and such people, 

Dropping in to see us daily 

Filling up with drink and victuals 

Until they were nearly bursting. 

But it's when your fortunes alter 

That you get to know your neighbours. 

Since the day when " rich John Gynt " 


Peer Gynt 

Took the road with pedlar's pack 

Not a soul has e'er been near us. [Wipes her eyes with her apron. 

You're a stout and strapping fellow 

You should be a staff supporting 

Your old mother in her troubles. 

You should work the farm for profit, 

And look after all the little 

That your father left behind him. [Weeps again. 

Heaven knows, it's precious little 

Use you've been to me, you rascal. 

When you are at home you're loafing 

By the fire, or grubbing idly 

In the ashes and the embers ; 

When you're in the town you frighten 

All the girls you meet at dances, 

So that I'm ashamed to own you 

Fighting with the lowest tramps 

PEER GYNT [moving away from her]. Let me be! 

AASE [following him] . Can you deny 

You were foremost in the brawling 

In that dog-fight of a scrimmage 

Down at Lunde ? Who but you 

Cracked the blacksmith Aslak's arm ? 

Or at any rate disjointed 

One of his ten fingers for him ? 
PEER GYNT. Who has stuffed you up with that? 
AASE [hotly] . Why, the cotters heard his howls ! 
PEER GYNT [rubbing his elbow] . Yes but it was I that howled. 
AASE. What! 

PEER GYNT. Yes, mother, I got thrashed. 
AASE. What! 


Peer Gynt 

PEER GYNT. Well, he's a lusty chap. 

AASE. Who is ? 

PEER GYNT. Aslak as I felt ! 

AASE. Shame ! I'd like to spit upon you ! 

To let such a scurvy swiller, 

Such a worthless drunken rascal, 

Beat you ! 

Often I've endured 

Shame and scorn on your account, 

But that this disgrace should happen 

Is the very worst of all. 

If he is a lusty fellow, 

Need that mean that you're a weakling ? 
PEER GYNT [with a laugh]. Well, it doesn't seem to matter 

If I beat, or if I'm beaten 

Either way you start your wailing. 

You may cheer up 

AASE. Are you lying 

Now again ? 
PEER GYNT. Yes, just this once; 

So you may as well stop crying. 

See, 'twas with this pair of pincers 

That I bent the blacksmith double, 

While my right hand was my hammer 

AASE. Oh, you brawler ! You will bring me 

To my grave by your behaviour ! 
PEER GYNT. Nonsense ! You're worth something better 

Better twenty thousand times ! 

Little, homely, dainty mother, 

Just believe what I am saying. 

All the town shall do you honour ; 


[ Weeps again. 

[Clenches his left hand. 

Peer Gynt 

Only wait till I have done 

Something something really great ! 
AASE [contemptuously]. You! 

PEER GYNT. Who knows what lies before him ! 

AASE. If you ever know enough 

To mend your breeches when they're torn, 

'Tis the most that I could hope for ! 
PEER GYNT [hotly}. I'll be a King, an Emperor! 
AASE. Oh, God help me ! Now he's losing 

What was left him of his wits ! 
PEER GYNT. Yes, I shall ! Just give me time ! 
AASE. Of course ! As the old proverb runs, 

Everything comes to him that waits. 
PEER GYNT. Mother, you shall see. 
AASE. Be quiet! 

You are as mad as mad can be. 

After all, it's true enough 

Something might have come of you 

If you'd thought of something else 

But your stupid lies and nonsense. 

Haegstad's daughter fancied you, 

And you might have won the game 

If you'd rightly gone to work 

PEER GYNT. Do you think so ? 

AASE. The old man 

Is too weak to stand against her. 

He is obstinate enough 

In a way ; but in the end 

It is Ingrid takes the lead, 

And where she goes, step by step 

The old hunks comes stumbling after. [Begins to cry again. 


Peer Gynt 

Ah, Peer a richly dowered girl, 

Heir to his lands, just think of it. 

You might, if only you had liked, 

In bridegroom's finery be dressed 

Instead of in these dirty rags ! 

PEER GYNT [quickly}. Come on, I'll be a suitor now. 
AASE. Where? 

PEER GYNT. Why, at Haegstad ! 
AASE. Ah, poor boy, 

The right of way is barred to you. 
PEER GYNT. What do you mean ? 
AASE. Alas, alas ! 

You've lost the moment lost your chance 

PEER GYNT. How's that ? 

AASE [sobbing]. While you were on the hills, 

Riding your reindeer through the air, 

Mads Moen went and won the girl. 
PEER GYNT. What ? He ? That guy the girls all laugh at ? 
AASE. Yes. Now she's betrothed to him. 
PEER GYNT. Just wait till I have harnessed up 

The cart [Turns to go. 

AASE. You needn't take the trouble. 

The wedding is to-morrow. 
PEER GYNT. Pooh ! 

I'll get there by this evening. 
AASE. Fie ! Do you want to make things worse ? 

Just think how every one will mock us ! 
PEER GYNT. Cheer up ! All will turn out right. 

[Shouting and laughing at the same time. 

No, mother ! We won't take the cart; 

We haven't time to put the mare in. [Lifts her off her feet. 


Peer Gynt 

AASE. Let me alone ! 

PEER GYNT. No, in my arms 

You shall be carried to the wedding ! [Wades out into the water. 
AASE. Help ! Help ! Oh, Heaven protect me ! Peer, 

We'll drown 

PEER GYNT. Oh, no, we shan't I'm born 

To meet a better death. 
AASE. That's true ; 

You'll probably be hanged. [Pulls his hair. 

You beast ! 
PEER GYNT. You'd best keep quiet, for just here 

The bottom's smooth and slippery. 
AASE. Ass ! 

PEER GYNT. Yes, abuse me if you like, 

Words don't do any harm. Aha ! 

The bottom's sloping upwards now 

AASE. Don't lose your hold of me ! 

PEER GYNT. Gee up ! 

We'll play at Peer and Reindeer now ! [Prances. 

I am the reindeer, you are Peer ! 
AASE. I'm sure I don't know what I am ! 
PEER GYNT. See here, now here's an even bottom. 

[Wades to the bank. 

Now give your steed a pretty kiss 

To thank him for the ride you've had. 
AASE [boxing his ears]. That's the thanks I'll give him! 

That's a scurvy sort of tip. 
AASE. Put me down ! 
PEER GYNT. Not till we get 

To where the wedding is afoot. 


Peer Gynt 

You are so clever, you must be 

My spokesman talk to the old fool 

Tell him Mads Moen is a sot 

AASE. Put me down ! 

PEER GYNT. And tell him, too, 

The sort of lad that Peer Gynt is. 
AASE. Yes, you may take your oath I will ! 

A pretty character I'll give you ! 

I'll draw a faithful portrait, too 

And all your devil's pranks and antics 

I'll tell them of in every detail 

PEER GYNT. Oh, will you ! 

AASE [kicking him in her temper]. I won't hold my tongue 

Till the old man sets his dog 

Upon you, as upon a tramp ! 
PEER GYNT. Ah, then I think I'll go alone. 
AASE. All right, but I shall follow you ! 
PEER GYNT. Dear mother, you're not strong enough. 
AASE. Not strong enough ? I'm so worked up 

That I could smash a heap of stones ! 

Oh, I could make a meal of flints ! 

So put me down ! 

PEER GYNT. Yes, if you promise 

AASE. Nothing ! I'm going there with you, 

And they shall know the sort you are ! 
PEER GYNT. Oh, no, you won't; you'll stay behind. 
AASE. Never ! I'm going there with you. 
PEER GYNT. Oh, no, you aren't. 
AASE. What will you do ? 

PEER GYNT. I'll put you on the mill-house roof ! 

[Puts her up there. She screams. 

Peer Gynt 

AASE. Lift me down ! 

PEER GYNT. If you will listen 

AASE. Bah! 

PEER GYNT. Now, little mother, listen 

AASE [throwing a bit of turf thatch at him] . Lift me down this moment, 

PEER GYNT. If I dared I would, indeed. [Goes nearer to her. 

Remember to sit still and quiet 

Not to kick your legs about, 

Nor the tiles to break or loosen 

Or an accident may happen, 

And you might fall off. 
AASE. You beast ! 

PEER GYNT. Don't shift ! 
AASE. I wish you'd been shifted 

Up the chimney, like a changeling ! l 
PEER GYNT. Mother ! Shame ! 
AASE. Pooh ! 

PEER GYNT. You should rather 

Give your blessing on my journey. 

Will you? 
AASE. I'll give you a thrashing, 

Big as you are ! 
PEER GYNT. Oh, well, good-bye ! 

Only have patience, mother dear ; 

I shan't be long. 

[Is going; but turns, lifts a warning finger, and says: 
But don't forget 

You mustn't try to move from there ! [Goes. 

1 She alludes to a Norwegian superstition that 'changelings ' left by the fairies can be 
blown up the chimney. 



Lift nv 


I says. 


Peer Gynt 

AASE. Peer ! Heaven help me, he is gone ! 

Reindeer-rider! Liar! Hi! 

Will you listen ? No, he's off 

Over the meadows. [Screams. 

Help! I'm giddy! 
[Two OLD WOMEN, with sacks on their backs, come down the 

path towards the mill. 

FIRST OLD WOMAN. Who's that screaming ? 
AASE. Me! 


You have had a lift in life ! 
AASE. One that won't do me much good 

I'll be booked for heaven directly ! 
FIRST OLD WOMAN. Pleasant journey ! 
AASE. Fetch a ladder! 

Get me down ! That devil Peer 

SECOND OLD WOMAN. What, your son ? 

AASE. Now you can say 

You have seen how he behaves. 
FIRST OLD WOMAN. We'll bear witness. 
AASE. Only help me 

Help me to get straight to Haegstad 

SECOND OLD WOMAN. Is he there? 

FIRST OLD WOMAN. You'll be revenged ; 

The blacksmith's going to the party. 
AASE [wringing her hands]. Oh, God help me! My poor 

They will murder him between them ! 
FIRST OLD WOMAN. Ah, we know that lot quite well ; 

You may bet that's what will happen ! 
SECOND OLD WOMAN. You can see she's lost her senses. 
c 31 

Peer Gynt 

Eivind ! Anders ! Hi ! come here ! 
SECOND OLD WOMAN. Peer Gynt has put his mother 

Up upon the mill-house roof! 

[Calls up the hill 


A little hill covered with bushes and heather. The high-road, shut off by a 
fence, runs at the back. PEER GYNT comes down a footpath, goes quickly 
up to the fence, and stands looking out over the landscape beyond. 

PEER GYNT. Yonder lies Haegstad. I shall soon be at it. 

[Climbs half over the fence, then stops and considers. 
I wonder if Ingrid's sitting all alone there ? 

[Shades his eyes and looks along the road. 
No. Folk with gifts are swarming up like midges. 
Perhaps I had better turn and go no farther. 

[Draws his leg back over the fence. 
There'll be their grins behind my back for certain 
Whispers that seem to burn their way right through you. 

[Moves a few steps away from the fence, and begins absently 

plucking leaves. 

If only I'd a good strong drink inside me 
Or could just slip into the house unnoticed 

Or if no one knew me No, some good strong liquor 

Would be best ; their laughter wouldn't hurt then. 

[Looks round suddenly as if startled, then hides among the bushes. 
Some COUNTRY FOLK, carrying presents, pass along the road 
on their way to the wedding. 
A MAN [in conversation}. With a drunkard for father, and a poor 

thing of a mother 

A WOMAN. Yes, it's no wonder the boy is such a wastrel. 

[They pass on. After a little PEER GYNT comes forward, blushing 
with shame, and peeps after them. 


Peer Gynt 

PEER GYNT [softly]. Was it of me they gossiped? 

[With a forced shrug. 
Oh, well, let them ! 
Anyway, they can't kill me with their gossip. 

[Throws himself down on the heather slope, and for some time 

lies on his back with his hands under his head, staring up into 

the sky. 

What a curious cloud ! That bit's like a horse, 
And there is its rider and saddle and bridle, 
And behind them an old crone is riding a broomstick. 

[Laughs quietly to himself. 

That's mother ! She's scolding and screaming, " You beast ! 
Hi ! Peer, come back ! " [Gradually closes his eyes. 

Yes, now she is frightened. 
There rides Peer Gynt at the head of his henchmen, 
His charger gold-shod, silver-crested his harness. 
Peer carries gauntlets and sabre and scabbard, 
Wears a long coat with a fine silky lining. 
Splendid the men in his retinue following ; 
But there's not one sits his charger as proudly, 
Not one that glitters like him in the sunshine. 
The people in groups by the wayside are gathered, 
Lifting their hats as they stare up in wonder ; 
The women are curtseying, every one knows it is 
Kaiser Peer Gynt and his thousand retainers. 
Half-guinea pieces and glittering shillings 
Are strewn on the roadway as if they were pebbles ; 
Rich as a lord is each man in the parish. 
Peer Gynt rides over the seas in his glory ; 
Engelland's Prince on the shore is awaiting, 
And Engelland's maidens all ready to welcome him. 


Peer Gynt 

EngellancTs nobles and EngellancTs Kaiser 

Rise from their seats as he deigns to approach them. 

Lifting his crown, speaks the Kaiser in welcome 

ASLAK THE SMITH [to some others, as they pass by on the other side of the 
fence]. Hullo ! Look here ! Why, it's Peer Gynt the drunkard ! 

PEER GYNT [half rising]. What, Kaiser ! 

ASLAK [leaning on the fence and grinning]. Get up on your feet, my 
young fellow ! 

PEER GYNT. What the devil ? The blacksmith ! Well, pray, what 

do you want ? 

ASLAK [to the others]. He hasn't got over our spree down at Lunde. 
PEER GYNT [springing up]. Just let me alone! 
ASLAK. That I will. But, young fellow, 

What have you done with yourself since we parted ? 

It's six weeks ago. Have the troll-folk been at you ? 
PEER GYNT. I can tell you I've done something wonderful, Aslak. 
ASLAK [winking to the others]. Let's hear it then, Peer! 
PEER GYNT. No, it won't interest you. 

ASLAK. Shall we see you at Haegstad ? 
PEER GYNT. You won't. 

ASLAK. Why, the gossip 

Says there was a time you were fancied by Ingrid. 
PEER GYNT. You dirty-faced crow ! 
ASLAK. Now, don't get in a temper ! 

If the girl has refused you there surely are others. 

Remember the goodly John Gynt was your father ! 

Come along to the farm ! There'll be girls at the wedding 

As tender as lambkins, and widows well seasoned 

PEER GYNT. Go to hell! 

ASLAK. You'll be sure to find some one who'll have you. 

Good evening. I'll give the bride all your good wishes ! 


Peer Gynt 

[They go off, laughing and whispering. PEER stands for a moment 

looking after them, then tosses his head and turns half round. 
PEER GYNT. Well, Ingrid at Haegstad may wed whom she pleases 
For all that I care ! I shall be just as happy ! 

[Looks down at his clothes. 
Breeches all torn all dirty and tattered. 

If only I had something new to put on me 

[Stamps his foot on the slope. 

If I only could carve at their breasts like a butcher, 
And tear out the scorn and contempt that they show me ! 

[Looks round suddenly. 
What was that ? Who is it that's laughing behind there ? 

I certainly thought that I heard No, there's no one. 

I'll go home to mother. 

[Moves off, but stops again and listens in the direction of Hcegstad. 

The dance is beginning ! 
[Stares and listens; moves step by step towards the fence; his eyes 

glisten; he rubs his hands down his legs. 
How the girls swarm ! Seven or eight of them 
There for each man ! Oh, death and damnation, 
I must go to the party ! But what about mother, 

Sitting up there on the roof of the mill-house ? 

[His eyes wander towards the fence again; he skips and laughs. 
Haha ! I can hear them out dancing a Hailing ! l 
Guttorm's the boy ! how he handles his fiddle ! 
Hear it sparkle and flash like a stream at a waterfall ! 

And think of the girls all the pick of the neighbourhood 

Yes, death and damnation, I'm off to the party! 

[Vaults over the fence and goes off down the road. 

1 A boisterous country-dance. 



The courtyard of the farm at Hcegstad. The farm buildings are at the 
hack. A number of guests are assembled, and a lively dance is in 
progress on the grass. The FIDDLER is seated on a table. The 
STEWARD stands in the doorway. Cook-maids pass to and fro between 
the buildings. The older folk are sitting about, gossiping. 

A WOMAN [joining a group of guests who are sitting on some logs]. The 

bride ? To be sure she is crying a little, 
But that's not a thing that is out of the usual. 
THE STEWARD [to another group]. Now, then, my friends, you must 

empty your noggins ! 

A MAN. Ah, thank you kindly you fill up too quickly ! 
A YOUTH [as he flies past the FIDDLER, holding a girl by the hand]. 

That's the way, Guttorm ! Don't spare your fiddle-strings ! 
THE GIRL. Scrape till it echoes out over the meadows ! 
OTHER GIRLS [standing in a ring round a youth who is dancing]. That's a 

good step ! 

A GIRL. He's lusty and nimble ! 

THE YOUTH [dancing]. The roof here is high and the walls far apart, 
you know ! * 
[The BRIDEGROOM comes up whimpering to his FATHER, who is 

standing talking to some others, and pulls at his jacket. 
THE BRIDEGROOM. Father, she won't ! She is not being nice to 

His FATHER. What won't she do ? 

1 His allusion is to the fact that in dancing the Hailing a great feat is to kick as high as 
the rafters of the roof; but he is dancing in the open air. 


Peer Gynt 

THE BRIDEGROOM. She has locked herself in. 

His FATHER. Well, you must see if you can't find the key. 
THE BRIDEGROOM. But I don't know how. 

His FATHER. Oh, you are a nuisance ! 

[Turns to the others again. The BRIDEGROOM drifts across the 

A BOY [coming from behind the house]. I say, you girls! Now things 

will be livelier ! 
Peer Gynt's arrived ! 

ASLAK [who has just come on the scene]. Who invited him? 
THE STEWARD. No one did. 

[Goes into the house. 
ASLAK [to the girls] . If he should speak to you, don't seem to hear 


A GIRL [to the others]. No, we'll pretend that we don't even see him. 
[PEER GYNT comes in, hot and eager, stops in front of the group, and 

rubs his hands. 

PEER GYNT. Who is the nimblest girl of the lot of you? 
A GIRL [whom he has approached]. Not I. 

A THIRD. No, nor I either. 

PEER GYNT [to a fourth]. Then you dance with me, for want of a 


THE GIRL [turning away]. I haven't time. 
PEER GYNT [to a fifth]. You, then. 

THE GIRL [moving away]. I'm off homeward. 

PEER GYNT. Homeward to-night ? Are you out of your senses ? 
ASLAK [after a little, in a low voice] . Peer, she has taken an old man to 

dance with. 

PEER GYNT [turning quickly to another man]. Where are the dis- 
engaged girls? 


Peer Gynt 

THE MAN. Go and look for them. 

[He moves away from PEER GYNT, who has suddenly become 
subdued. He glances furtively and shyly at the group. They 
all look at him, but no one speaks. He approaches other groups. 
Wherever he goes there is a sudden silence; when he moves 
away they smile and look after him. 
PEER GYNT [in a low voice]. Glances and thoughts and smiles that 

are cutting 
Jarring on one like a file on a saw-blade ! 

[He sidles along by the palings. SOLVEIG, holding little HELGA 

by the hand, comes into the courtyard with her PARENTS. 
A MAN [to another, close to PEER GYNT] . These are the newcomers. 
THE OTHER. Living out westward ? 

FIRST MAN. Yes, out at Hedal. 
THE OTHER. Ah, yes of course they are. 

[PEER GYNT advances to meet the newcomers, points to SOLVEIG, 

and addresses her FATHER. 
PEER GYNT. May I dance with your daughter ? 
THE FATHER. You may ; but before that 

We must go indoors and give our hosts greeting. [They go in. 
THE STEWARD [to PEER GYNT, offering him a drink]. As you're here, 

I suppose you must wet your whistle. 

PEER GYNT [looking fixedly after the newcomers]. Thanks, I'm for 
dancing. I don't feel thirsty. 
[The STEWARD leaves him. PEER GYNT looks towards the house 

and laughs. 

How fair she is ! Was there ever a fairer ? 
Eyes glancing down at her shoes and white apron 
And the way she held on to her mother's skirt, too 

And carried her prayer-book wrapped in a kerchief ! 

I must have a look at her ! 


Peer Gynt 

[Is going into the house, but is met by several YOUTHS coming 

A YOUTH. What, off already 

Away from the dance ? 

THE YOUTH. You're on the wrong road, then ! 

[Takes him by the shoulders to turn him round. 
PEER GYNT. Let me get past ! 

THE YOUTH. Are you frightened of Aslak ? 

PEER GYNT. I, frightened ? 

THE YOUTH. Remember what happened at Lunde ! 

[The group laugh and move off to where the dancing is going on. 

SOLVEIG comes to the door. 

SOLVEIG. Are you the boy who wanted to dance with me ? 
PEER GYNT. Of course I am. Can't you tell by the look of 


Come on ! 

SOLVEIG. But I mustn't go far mother said so. 
PEER GYNT. Mother said ? Mother said ? Were you only born 
yesterday ? 

SOLVEIG. Don't laugh 

PEER GYNT. It is true you are almost a kiddie still. 

Are you grown up ? 

SOLVEIG. I shall soon be confirmed, you know. 

PEER GYNT. Tell me your name then we can talk easier. 
SOLVEIG. My name is Solveig. Tell me what yours is. 
PEER GYNT. Peer Gynt. 

SOLVEIG [drawing back her hand from his]. Oh, heavens! 
PEER GYNT. Why, what is the matter ? 

SOLVEIG. My garter's come loose ; I must tie it more carefully. 

[Leaves him. 



8T23UO oraaaaw SHT ot 

rhewrc i, then! 

by the sli '>i him round. 

of Aslak ? 

at happened at Lunde ! 

-:-ing on. 

he loo- 

nl born 

are almost a kiddie still. 

>e confir 

Peer Gynt 

THE BRIDEGROOM [pulling at his MOTHER'S sleeve}. Mother, she 


His MOTHER. She won't? What won't she do ? 

THE BRIDEGROOM. Mother, she won't 

His MOTHER. What ? 

THE BRIDEGROOM. Unbar the door to me ! 

His FATHER [in a low and angry voice]. You're only fit to be tied in 

a stable, sir ! 

His MOTHER. Poor boy, don't scold him he'll be all right presently. 
[A YOUTH comes in, with a crowd of others who have been dancing. 
THE YOUTH. Brandy, Peer ? 

YOUTH. Just a drop ! 

PEER GYNT. Have you got any? 

YOUTH. Maybe I have. [Pulls out a flask and drinks. 

Ah, that's got a bite to it ! 


PEER GYNT. Let me try it. [Drinks. 

SECOND YOUTH. And now have a pull at mine ! 

YOUTH. Oh, what rubbish ! Don't be a simpleton ! 

Have a drink, Peer ! 

PEER GYNT. Well, give me a drop of it. [Drinks again. 

A GIRL [in an undertone]. Come, let's be off. 

PEER GYNT. Why, are you afraid of me? 

YOUTH. Do you think there is any that isn't afraid of you? 

You showed us what you could do, down at Lunde. 
PEER GYNT. I can do better than that if I'm roused, you know ! 
YOUTH [whispering}. Now he is getting on! 
OTHERS [making a ring round PEER]. Come on, now tell us, Peer, 

What can you do ? 

Peer Gynt 

PEER GYNT. Oh, I'll tell you to-morrow 


Tell us to-night ! 

A GIRL. Can you show us some witchcraft, Peer ? 

PEER GYNT. Ah, I can conjure the Devil ! 
A MAN. My grandmother, 

She could do that long before I was born, they say. 
PEER GYNT. Liar ! What I can do no one alive can do. 

Why, once I conjured him into a nutshell, 

Right through a worm-hole ! 

OTHERS [laughing]. Of course we can guess that! 

PEER GYNT. He swore and he wept and promised to give me 

All sorts of things 

ONE OF THE GROUP. But had to go into it ? 

PEER GYNT. Yes ; and then, when I'd stopped up the worm-hole, 

Lord ! if you'd heard him buzzing and rumbling ! 
A GIRL. Fancy ! 

PEER GYNT. 'Twas like a great bumble-bee buzzing. 
THE GIRL. And pray have you got him still in the nutshell ? 
PEER GYNT. No, the old Devil got right clean away again. 

It is his fault the blacksmith dislikes me. 
A BOY. How's that? 
PEER GYNT. Because I took him to the smithy 

And asked the smith to crack the nutshell for me. 

He said he would. I laid it on the anvil ; 

But you know Aslak's very heavy-handed, 

And with a will he laid on with his hammer 

A VOICE FROM THE GROUP. Did he kill the Devil? 

PEER GYNT. No ; he laid on stoutly, 

But the Devil looked after himself and just vanished 

Through ceiling and walls in a flame of fire. 


Peer Gynt 


PEER GYNT. Stood there with his hands well roasted. 

And since that day we have never been friendly. [General laughter. 
VOICES. That's a fine rigmarole ! 
OTHERS. Easily his best one ! 

PEER GYNT. Do you suggest that I made it up ? 
A MAN. Oh, no, 

I know you didn't ; for I've heard the story 

Told by my grandfather 

PEER GYNT. Liar ! It happened 

To me, I tell you ! 

THE MAN. Oh, well that's all right. 

PEER GYNT [tossing his head]. Pooh! I can ride through the clouds 
on horseback ! 

There are lots of fine things I can do, I tell you ! 

[Roars of laughter again. 

ONE OF THE GROUP. Peer, let us see you ride clouds ! 
OTHERS. Yes, dear Peer ! 

PEER GYNT. Oh, you won't need to beg me so humbly 

One day I'll ride like a storm o'er the lot of you ! 

The whole countryside shall fall at my feet ! 
AN OLDER MAN. Why, now he's raving ! 
ANOTHER. Yes, the great booby ! 

A THIRD. The braggart ! 
A FOURTH. The liar ! 

PEER GYNT [threatening them]. Just wait and you'll see, then! 

A MAN [half drunk]. Yes, wait and you'll get your jacket well 

dusted ! 
OTHERS. A good sound drubbing ! A nice black eye, too ! 

[The crowd disperses, the older ones angry and the younger ones 
laughing and mocking him. 


Peer Gynt 

THE BRIDEGROOM [edging up to PEER]. Peer, is it true you can ride 

through the clouds, then? 

PEER GYNT [shortly]. Anything, Mads ! I'm the boy, I can tell you ! 
THE BRIDEGROOM. I suppose youVe a coat that will make you 

invisible ? 
PEER GYNT. An invisible hat, do you mean ? Yes, I have one. 

[ Turns away from him. SOLVEIG comes across the courtyard leading 
HELGA by the hand. PEER GYNT goes to meet them, looking 
Solveig ! Ah, I am glad you have come to me ! 

[Grasps her wrists. 

Now I shall swing you round most nimbly ! 
SOLVEIG. Oh, let me go ! 

SOLVEIG You look so wildly. 

PEER GYNT. The reindeer grows wild when summer's approaching. 

Come along, girl ! Come, don't be sullen ! 
SOLVEIG [drawing back her arm]. No no, I daren't. 

SOLVEIG. No, you've been drinking. 

[Moves away a little, with HELGA. 

PEER GYNT. I wish I had stuck my knife in the lot of them ! 
THE BRIDEGROOM [nudging PEER'S elbow]. Can't you help me to get 

in there where the bride is ? 
PEER GYNT [absently]. The bride? Where is she? 
THE BRIDEGROOM. In the loft. 

PEER GYNT. Oh, is she ? 

THE BRIDEGROOM. Oh, come, Peer dear Peer you might try to ! 
PEER GYNT. No, you must manage to do without me. 

[A thought strikes him. He says, softly and meaningly: 
Ingrid ! The loft ! [Goes up to SOLVEIG. 





j up to PEEK j 
ything, Mads ! ; 

> you mean ; 

comes ch i leading 

EER GYNT goes to m< looking 

:>ok so wildly. 

aimer's approaching, 

.11 drinking. 
way a little, with HELGA. 

an't > get 

1. Oh/ come, Peerdear Peer- to! 

Nfo, you must i to do without me: 

[A i He says, softly and n 

\ The loft! p to SOLVHG. 

Peer Gynt 


Have you made up your mind, then? 
[SOLVEIG turns to get away, but he bars her path. 

I look like a tramp, and so you're ashamed of me. 
SOLVEIG [hastily]. Oh, no, you don't; that isn't the truth. 
PEER GYNT. It is. 

And it's because you think I am fuddled ; 

But that was for spite, because you had hurt me. 

Come along, then ! 

SOLVEIG. I daren't, if I wanted to. 

PEER GYNT. Who are you frightened of? 
SOLVEIG. Mostly of father. 

PEER GYNT. Your father ? Oh, yes he's one of the solemn ones ! 

Sanctimonious, isn't he ? Answer me ! 
SOLVEIG. What shall I say ? 
PEER GYNT. Perhaps he's a preacher ? 

And you and your mother the same, I dare say ? 

Are you going to answer me ? 
SOLVEIG. Let me alone. 

PEER GYNT. I won't ! [In a low but hard and threatening voice. 

I can turn myself into a troll ! \ 

I shall come and stand by your bed at midnight ; 

And if you hear something that's hissing and spitting 

Don't you suppose it's your cat you are hearing. 

It is I ! And I'll drain your life-blood out of you ; 

And your little sister I'll eat her up, 

For I turn to a were-wolf whenever the night falls, 

Your loins and your back I'll bite all over 

[Changes his tone suddenly and entreats her anxiously. 

Dance with me, Solveig ! 
SOLVEIG [looking darkly at him]. Ah now you are horrid. 

[Goes into the house. 


Peer Gynt 

THE BRIDEGROOM [drifting up to PEER again]. I'll give you an ox if 

you'll help me ! 
PEER GYNT. Come ! 

[They go behind the house. At the same moment a crowd comes 
back from dancing, most of them drunk. Noise and con- 
fusion. SOLVEIG, HELGA, and their PARENTS come out to the 

THE STEWARD [to ASLAK, who is in the front of the crowd]. Be quiet! 
ASLAK [pulling off his coat]. No, here we'll settle the matter. 

Peer Gynt or I shall get a thrashing. 
SOME OF THE CROWD. Yes, let them fight ! 

OTHERS. No, no, let them argue! 

ASLAK. No, we must fight; we want no arguing. 
SOLVEIG'S FATHER. Be quiet, man ! 

HELGA. Will he hit him, mother ? 

A BOY. It's better fun with his lies to tease him ! 
ANOTHER. Kick him out, I say ! 
A THIRD. No, spit in his face ! 

A FOURTH [to ASLAK]. Are you backing out? 
ASLAK [throwing away his coat]. I'll murder the beggar! 

SOLVEIG'S MOTHER [to SOLVEIG]. You see now what they think of 
the booby. [AASE comes in, with a cudgel in her hand. 

AASE. Is my son here ? He shall have such a drubbing ! 

Just wait and you'll see what a thrashing I'll give him ! 
ASLAK [turning up his shirt-sleeves]. No, your little body's too weak 

for that. 

VOICES. Aslak will thrash him ! 
OTHERS. Slash him ! 

ASLAK [spitting on his hands and nodding to AASE]. Hang him ! 
AASE. What ? Hang my Peer ? Just try, if you dare ! 
This old Aase's got teeth and claws ! 


Peer Gynt 

Where is he ? [Calls across the courtyard. 

THE BRIDEGROOM [running in]. Oh, God in Heaven! 

Come, Father ! Mother ! 

His FATHER. Why, what's the matter ? 

THE BRIDEGROOM. Oh, Peer Gynt ! I - ! 

AASE [with a scream]. What? What? Have you killed him? 

THE BRIDEGROOM. No, Peer Gynt - ! Look, up there on the hill- 


VOICES. With the bride ! 
AASE [letting her cudgel fall]. The beast! 
ASLAK [in amazement]. Where the hill is steepest 

He's climbing, by God ! like a mountain goat ! 
THE BRIDEGROOM [in tears]. And carrying her under his arm like a 

AASE [shaking her fist at PEER]. I wish he would fall and - ! 

[Screams anxiously. 

Take care of your footing ! 

INGRID'S FATHER [coming out bareheaded and white with rage]. I'll have 

his life for his rape of the bride ! 
AASE. No, may God punish me if I let you! 




A narrow track high up on the mountain-side. It is early morning. PEER 
GYNT comes hurriedly and sulkily along the path. INGRID, wearing 
some of her bridal ornaments, is trying to hold him back. 

PEER GYNT. Get away ! 

INGRID [in tears]. What, after this? 

Where to ? 

PEER GYNT. Anywhere you like. 
INGRID [wringing her hands] . What deceit ! 
PEER GYNT. It's no use railing. 

We must go our own ways both. 
INGRID. Think what binds us two together ! 
PEER GYNT. Oh, the devil take all thinking ! 

And the devil take all women 

Except one ! 

INGRID. And who is she? 

PEER GYNT. She's not you. 
INGRID. Who is it, then? 

PEER GYNT. Get you back to where you came from ! 

Go back to your father ! 

INGRID. Dearest 

PEER GYNT. Pshaw ! 

INGRID. You surely can't be meaning 

What you say. 

PEER GYNT. I can and do. 

INGRID. To ruin me, and then forsake me ? 
PEER GYNT. Well, what have you got to offer ? 

Peer Gynt 

INGRID. Haegstad farm, and something more. 
PEER GYNT. Is your prayer-book in your kerchief? 

Where's your mane of hair all golden? 

Do you glance down at your apron ? 

Do you hold on to your mother 

By her skirt ? Come, answer ! 

INGRID. No; but 

PEER GYNT. Shall you go to Confirmation 

Very shortly ? 

INGRID. No ; but, dearest 

PEER GYNT. Are your glances always bashful ? 

If I beg, can you deny me ? 

INGRID. Christ ! I think he's lost his senses ! 

PEER GYNT. Does one feel a holy feeling 

When one sees you ? Answer ! 

INGRID. No ; but 

PEER GYNT. Then what matter what you offer? [Turns to go. 

INGRID [confronting him]. Remember it's a hanging matter 

To forsake me now. 
PEER GYNT. So be it. 

INGRID. Rich you may be, and respected, 

If you take me 

PEER GYNT. I can't do it. 

INGRID [bursting into tears]. Oh, you tempted 

PEER GYNT. You were willing. 

INGRID. I was wretched. 
PEER GYNT. I was mad. 

INGRID [threateningly]. You'll pay a heavy price for this! 
PEER GYNT. I should call the heaviest cheap. 
INGRID. Is your mind made up? 
PEER GYNT. Like stone. 


Peer Gynt 

INGRID. Very well. You'll see who'll win. [Goes down the hill. 
PEER GYNT [is silent for a little; then suddenly calls out]. Oh, the devil 

take all thinking ! 
And the devil take all women ! 

INGRID [turns her head and calls up mockingly] . All but one ! 
PEER GYNT. Yes, all but one. 

[They each go their way. 



By a mountain lake on boggy moorland. A storm is blowing up. AASE, 
in despair, is calling and searching in every direction. SOLVEIG can 
scarcely keep pace with her. Her PARENTS and HELGA are a little 
way behind. AASE beats the air with her arms and tears her hair. 

AASE. Everything's against me with the might of anger ! 
The skies and the water and the hateful mountains ! 
Fogs from the skies are rolling to mislead him 
Treacherous waters will delude and drown him 

Mountains will crush or slip away beneath him ! 

And all these people ! They are out to kill him ! 
By God, they shall not ! I can't do without him ! 
The oaf ! To think the devil thus should tempt him ! 

[Turns to SOLVEIG. 

Ah, my girl, one simply can't believe it. 
He, who was always full of lies and nonsense- 
He, who was only clever with his talking 
He, who had never done a thing worth telling 

He ! Oh, I want to laugh and cry together ! 

We were such friends in our need and troubles. 
For, you must know, my husband was a drunkard, 
Made us a byword in the neighbours' gossip, 
Brought all our good estate to rack and ruin, 
While I and Peerkin sat at home together 
Tried to forget we knew no better counsel ; 
I was too weak to stand up stoutly to it. 
It is so hard to face the fate that's coming ; 


Peer Gynt 

And so one tries to shake one's sorrows off one, 
Or do one's best to rid one's mind of thinking. 
Some fly to brandy, others try romancing; 
So we found comfort in the fairy stories 
All about trolls and princes and such cattle- 
Tales, too, of stolen brides but who would ever 
Think that such stories in his mind would linger? 

[Becomes terrified again. 

Ah, what a screech ! A nixie or a kelpie ! 

Peer! Oh, my Peer! Up there upon the hillock ! 

[Runs up on to a little hillock and looks over the lake. SOLVEIG'S 
PARENTS come up to her. 

Not a thing to be seen ! 
THE HUSBAND [quietly]. It is worst for him. 
AASE [in tears]. Oh, Peer! my Peer! My own lost lamb! 
THE HUSBAND [nodding his head gently]. Aye, lost indeed. 
AASE. Say no such thing ! 

He is so clever ; there's no one like him. 
THE HUSBAND. You foolish woman ! 
AASE. Oh, yes, oh, yes, 

I may be foolish, but he is fine ! 
THE HUSBAND [always quietly and with a gentle expression]. His heart 

is stubborn ; his soul is lost. 

AASE [anxiously]. No, no ! God's not so hard as that ! 
THE HUSBAND. Do you think he feels the weight of his sinning ? 
AASE [hastily]. No he can ride through the air on a reindeer! 
THE WIFE. Christ ! Are you mad ? 

THE HUSBAND. What are you saying ? 

AASE. There's nothing that is too great for him. 

You'll see, if only he live to do it 

THE HUSBAND. 'Twould be best to see him hang on the gallows. 


Peer Gynt 

AASE [with a scream] . Good God ! 

THE HUSBAND. When he's in the hangman's clutches 

Perhaps his heart may turn to repentance. 
AASE [confusedly]. Your talk will make me dazed and giddy! 

We must find him ! 
THE HUSBAND. Save his soul. 

AASE. And body ! 

We must drag him out if he's in the marshes, 

And ring church bells if the trolls have got him. 

THE HUSBAND. Ah ! Here's a track 

AASE. May God repay you 

If you help me aright ! 

THE HUSBAND. 'Tis our Christian duty. 

AASE. All the others are naught but heathens ! 

There was only one that would come and wander 

THE HUSBAND. They knew him too well. 

AASE. He was much too good for them. 

[Wrings her hands. 

And to think to think his life is in danger ! 
THE HUSBAND. Here's a footprint. 

AASE. That's the way we must go, then ! 

THE HUSBAND. We'll scatter and search below the pastures. 

[He and his wife go on. 
SOLVEIG [to AASE]. Tell me some more. 
AASE [wiping her eyes]. About my son? 


Tell me everything ! 
AASE [smiling and holding her head up]. Everything? 

'Twould weary you ! 
SOLVEIG. You'd be sooner wearied 

With telling me, than I with hearing. 



Low treeless hills below the higher mountains, whose peaks show in the 
distance. It is late in the day, and long shadows are falling. PEER 
comes running in at full speed, and stops on a slope. 

PEER GYNT. They're after me now the whole of the parish ! 

And every one's taken his stick or his gun. 

The old man from Haegstad is leading them, howling. 

It has soon got abroad that Peer Gynt is the quarry ! 

A different thing from a fight with the blacksmith ! 

This is life ! All my muscles are strong as a bear's. 

[Swings his arms about and leaps into the air. 

To overthrow everything ! Breast a waterfall ! 

Strike ! Pull a fir-tree up by the roots ! 

This is life ! It can harden and it can exalt ! 

To hell with all my trumpery lying ! 

[Three COWHERD GIRLS run across the hill, shouting and singing. 
THE GIRLS. Trond of Valfjeld ! Baard and Kaare ! 

Listen, trolls ! Would you sleep in our arms? 
PEER GYNT. Who are you shouting for ? 

THE GIRLS. Trolls! Trolls! Trolls! 

FIRST GIRL. Trond, come lovingly ! 
SECOND GIRL. Come, lusty Baard ! 

THIRD GIRL. All the beds in our hut are empty ! 
FIRST GIRL. Love is lusty ! 
SECOND GIRL. And lustiness love ! 

THIRD GIRL. When boys are lacking one plays with trolls ! 
PEER GYNT. Where are your boys, then? 


Peer Gynt 

THE GIRLS [with a burst of laughter]. They can't come ! 

FIRST GIRL. Mine called me dearest and sweetheart too, 

Now he is wed to an elderly widow. 
SECOND GIRL. Mine met a gipsy wench up at Lien, 

Now they are both on the road together. 
THIRD GIRL. Mine made an end of our bastard brat, 

Now on a stake his head is grinning. 
ALL THREE. Trond of Valfjeld ! Baard and Kaare ! 

Listen, trolls ! Would you sleep in our arms ? 
PEER GYNT [leaping suddenly amongst them]. I'm a three-headed troll, 

and the boy for three girls ! 
THE GIRLS. Can you tackle the job? 
PEER GYNT. You shall see if I can ! 

FIRST GIRL. To the hut ! To the hut ! 
SECOND GIRL. We have mead ! 

PEER GYNT. Let it flow! 

THIRD GIRL. This Saturday night not a bed shall be empty ! 
SECOND GIRL [kissing PEER]. He gleams and glitters like glowing 



THIRD GIRL [kissing PEER]. Like a baby's eyes from the blackest 

PEER GYNT [dancing with them]. Dismal bodings and wanton 


Laughter in eyes and tears in throat ! 
THE GIRLS [making long noses at the mountain-tops, and shouting 

singing]. Trond of Valfjeld! Baard and Kaare ! 
Listen, trolls ! Did you sleep in our arms? 

[They dance away over the hills with PEER GYNT between them. 



Among the mountains. The snowy peaks are gleaming in the sunset. 
PEER GYNT comes in, looking wild and distraught. 

PEER GYNT. Palace o'er palace is rising ! 
See, what a glittering gate ! 
Stop ! Will you stop ! It is moving 
Farther and farther away ! 
The cock on the weather-vane's lifting 
Its wings as if for a flight 
Into rifts of rock it has vanished, 
And the mountain's barred and locked. 
What are these roots and tree-trunks 
That grow from the clefts of the ridge ? 

They are heroes with feet of herons 

And now they are vanished away. 

A shimmer like strips of rainbow 

My sight and mind assails. 

Are they bells that I hear in the distance ? 

What's weighing my eyebrows down ? 

Oh, how my forehead's aching 

As if I'd a red-hot band 

Pressing ! But who the devil 

Put it there I don't know ! [Sinks down. 

A flight o'er the ridge at Gendin 

Romancing and damned lies ! 
Over the steepest walls with 
The bride and drunk for a day 


Peer Gynt 

Hawks and kites to fight with 
Threatened by trolls and the like 

Sporting with crazy lasses 

Damned romancing and lies ! [Gazes upward for a long time. 

There hover two brown eagles ; 
The wild geese fly to the south; 
And I have to trudge and stumble 

Knee-deep in mud and mire. [Springs up. 

I'll go with them ! Cleanse my foulness 
In a bath of the keenest wind ! 
Up aloft I'll lave my stains in 
That glittering christening-font ! 
I'll away out over the pastures ; 
I'll fly till I'm pure and clean- 
Fly o'er the ocean waters, 
O'er the Prince of Engelland's head ! 
Ah, you may stare, you maidens ; 
I'm flying, but not to you. 

It's of no use your waiting ! 

Yet I might swoop below 

Why, where are the two brown eagles ? 

They've gone to the devil, I think ! 
See, there's the end of a gable, 
It's rising bit by bit ; 

It's growing out of the rubbish 

See, now the door stands wide ! 
Aha ! I recognize it, 
Grandfather's farm new built ! 
Gone are the clouts from the casements 
And the fence that was tumbling down ; 
Lights gleam from every window; 


Peer Gynt 

They are feasting there within. 
Listen ! The Parson's tapping 
His knife upon his glass ; 
The Captain's hurled his bottle 
And broken the mirror to smash. 
Let them waste and let them squander ! 
Hush, mother there's plenty more ! 
It's rich John Gynt that is feasting ; 
Hurrah for the race of Gynt ! 
What's all the bustle and rumpus ? 
What are the cries and shouts ? 
"Where's Peer?" the Captain is calling 

The Parson would drink my health 

Go in, then, Peer, for the verdict ; 
You shall have it in songs of praise : 
Great, Peer, were thy beginnings, 
And in great things thou shalt end. 

[He leaps forward, but runs his nose against a rock, falls, and 
remains lying on the ground. 


A mountain-side, with trees in full leaf through which the wind is whis- 
pering. Stars are twinkling through the branches. Birds are singing 
in the tree-tops. A WOMAN IN GREEN crosses the slope. After her 
follows PEER GYNT, performing all sorts of amorous antics. 

THE WOMAN IN GREEN [stopping and turning round]. Is it true? 
PEER GYNT [drawing his finger across his throat]. As true as my name 
is Peer ; 

As true as that you are a lovely woman ! 

Will you have me ? You'll see how nice I can be ; 

You shall never have to weave or to spin ; 

You shall be fed till you're ready to burst ; 

I promise I never will pull your hair 

THE WOMAN IN GREEN. Nor strike me, either ? 

PEER GYNT. No ; is it likely ? 

We sons of kings don't strike our women. 
THE WOMAN IN GREEN. A king's son ? 

THE WOMAN IN GREEN. I'm the Dovre-King's daughter. 

PEER GYNT. Are you really ? Well, well ! How suitable ! 
THE WOMAN IN GREEN. In the mountains my father has his castle. 
PEER GYNT. And my mother a larger one, let me tell you. 
THE WOMAN IN GREEN. Do you know my father ? His name's 

King Brose. 

PEER GYNT. Do you know my mother ? Her name's Queen Aase. 
THE WOMAN IN GREEN. The mountains reel when my father's 


Peer Gynt 

PEER GYNT. If my mother begins to scold they totter. 
THE WOMAN IN GREEN. My father can kick to the highest rafters. 
PEER GYNT. My mother can ride through the fiercest river. 
THE WOMAN IN GREEN. Besides those rags have you other cloth- 

PEER GYNT. Ah, you should see my Sunday garments ! 
THE WOMAN IN GREEN. My week-day garments are gold and 


PEER GYNT. It looks to me more like tow and grasses. 
THE WOMAN IN GREEN. Yes. There's just one thing to remember : 
We mountain folk have an ancient custom ; 
All that we have has a double shape. 
So when you come to my father's palace 
It would not be in the least surprising 
If you were inclined to think it merely 
A heap of ugly stones and rubbish. 
PEER GYNT. That's just the same as it is with us ! 
You may think our gold all rust and mildew, 
And mistake each glittering window-pane 
For a bundle of worn-out clouts and stockings. 
THE WOMAN IN GREEN. Black looks like white, and ugly like fair. 
PEER GYNT. Big looks like little, and filthy like clean. 
THE WOMAN IN GREEN [falling on his neck]. Oh, Peer, I see we are 

splendidly suited ! 

PEER GYNT. Like the hair to the comb or the leg to the breeches. 
THE WOMAN IN GREEN [calling over the hillside]. My steed! My 
steed ! My wedding steed ! 

[A gigantic pig comes running in, with a ropes end for a halter 
and an old sack for a saddle. PEER GYNT swings himself 
on to its back and seats the WOMAN IN GREEN in front of 




>Id and 

to remember : 



and ugly like fair. 

Peer, I see we are 

leg ro the breeches. 
;{']. My steed! My 

id for a halter 
n GYNI himself 

v IN G' r of 

Peer Gynt 

PEER GYNT. Houp-la ! We'll gallop right into the palace ! 

Come up ! Come up, my noble charger ! 
THE WOMAN IN GREEN [caressingly]. And to think I was feeling so 

sad and lonely 

One never can tell what is going to happen ! 
PEER GYNT [whipping up the pig, which trots off]. Great folk are 
known by the steeds they ride ! 



The Royal Hall of the King of the Trolls. A great assembly of TROLL 
on his throne, with crown and sceptre. His children and nearest 
relations sit on either side of him. PEER GYNT /5 standing before 
him. There is a great uproar in the hall. 

TROLL COURTIERS. Slay him! The Christian's son has tempted 

The fairest daughter of our King ! 
A TROLL IMP. Let me slash him on the fingers ! 
ANOTHER. May I tear his hair out for him ? 
A TROLL MAIDEN. Let me bite him on the buttocks ! 
TROLL WITCH [with a ladle] . Let me boil him down for broth ! 
ANOTHER [holding a chopper]. Shall he toast on a spit or be browned 

in a kettle ? 
THE TROLL KING. Quiet ! Keep calm ! 

[Beckons to his counsellors to approach him. 
We must not be too boastful. 

Things have been going badly with us lately ; 

We don't feel sure if we shall last or perish, 

And can't afford to throw away assistance. 

Besides, the lad is almost without blemish, 

And well-built too, as far as I can gather. 

It's true enough that he has only one head ; 

But then my daughter hasn't more than one. 

Three-headed Trolls are going out of fashion ; 

Two-headed, even, nowadays aren't common, 

And their heads usually are not up to much. 


Peer Gynt 

And so, my lad, it's my daughter you're after? [To PEER GYNT. 
PEER GYNT. Yes, if she comes with a kingdom for dowry. 
THE TROLL KING. You shall have half while I am living 

And the other half when I am done for. 
PEER GYNT. I'm content with that. 
THE TROLL KING. But stop, young fellow, 

Youve got to give some pledges also. 

Break one of them, and our bargain's off 

And you don't get out of here alive. 

First, you must promise never to give thought to 

Aught except what within these hills is bounded ; 

Shun the day, its deeds, and all the sunlit places. 
PEER GYNT. If I'm called King 'twill not be hard to do it. 

THE TROLL KING. Secondly now I'll see how far you're clever 

[Rises from his seat. 

THE OLDEST TROLL COURTIER [to PEER GYNT]. Let's see if you've 
got a wisdom tooth 

That can crack the nut of our monarch's riddle ! 
THE TROLL KING. What is the difference between Trolls and Men ? 
PEER GYNT. There isn't any, as far as I can gather ; 

Big Trolls would roast and little ones would claw you 

Just as with us if only we dared do it. 
THE TROLL KING. True ; we're alike in that and other things too. 

Still, just as morning's different from evening, 

So there's a real difference between us, 

And I will tell you what it is. Out yonder 

Under the skies men have a common saying : 

" Man, to thyself be true! " But here, 'mongst Trolls, 
* Troll, to thyself be enough! " it runs. 
TROLL COURTIER [to PEER GYNT]. Well, do you fathom it? 
PEER GYNT. I t se ems rather hazy. 


Peer Gynt 

THE TROLL KING. " Enough," my son that word so fraught with 

Must be the motto written on your buckler. 

PEER GYNT [scratching his head]. Well, but 

THE TROLL KING. It must, if you're to be a king 


PEER GYNT. All right ; so be it. It is not much worse than 

THE TROLL KING. Next you must learn to value rightly 
Our simple, homely way of living. 

[He beckons; two TROLLS with pigs heads, wearing white night- 
caps, bring food and drink. 
Our cows give cakes and our oxen mead ; 
No matter whether their taste is sour 
Or sweet ; the great thing to remember 
Is that they're home-made and home-brewed. 
PEER GYNT [pushing the things away from him] . The devil take your 

home-brewed drink ! 

I'll never get used to your country's habits. 
THE TROLL KING. The bowl goes with it, and it is golden. 

Who takes the bowl gets my daughter too. 
PEER GYNT [thoughtfully]. Of course we're told that a man should 


His disposition, and in the long run 
Perhaps the drink will taste less sour. 

So, here goes ! [Drinks. 

THE TROLL KING. Now that was sensibly said. 

But you spit ? 

PEER GYNT. I must trust to the force of habit. 
THE TROLL KING. Next, you must take off all your Christian 

clothing ; 
For you must know we boast that in the Dovre 


Peer Gynt 

All's mountain-made; we've nothing from the valleys 

Except the bows of silk that deck our tail-tips. 
PEER GYNT [angrily]. I haven't got a tail! 

THE TROLL KING. Then you shall have one. 

[To one of the courtiers. 

See that my Sunday tail is fastened on him. 
PEER GYNT. No, that he shan't! Do you want to make a fool of 

THE TROLL KING. Don't try with tail-less rump to court my 


PEER GYNT. Making a beast of a man! 
THE TROLL KING. My son, you're wrong there ; 

I'd only make a courtly wooer of you. 

And, as a mark of very highest honour, 

The bow you wear shall be of bright flame-colour. 
PEER GYNT [reflectively]. We're taught, of course, that man is but a 
shadow ; 

And one must pay some heed to use and wont, too. 

So, tie away ! 

THE TROLL KING. You're coming to your senses. 
TROLL COURTIER. Just see how nicely you can wag and wave it ! 
PEER GYNT [angrily]. Now, do you mean to ask anything more of 

Do you want me to give up my Christian faith ? 
THE TROLL KING. No, to keep that you are perfectly welcome. 

Faith is quite free, and pays no duty ; 

It's his dress and its cut that a Troll should be known by. 

If we're of one mind as to manners and costume 

You're free to believe what would give us the horrors. 
PEER GYNT. You are really, in spite of your many conditions, 

More reasonable than one might have expected. 


Peer Gynt 

THE TROLL KING. We Trolls are better than our reputation, 

My son ; and that is another difference 

Between you and us. But now we have finished 

The serious part of the present assembly. 

Our ears and our eyes shall now be delighted. 

Let the harp-maid waken the Dovre-harp's strings, 

Let the dance-maiden tread the Dovre-hall's floor. 

[Music and a dance. 

What do you think of it ? 

PEER GYNT. Think of it? H'm 

THE TROLL KING. Tell me quite openly. What did you see ? 
PEER GYNT. See ? What I saw was impossibly ugly. 

A bell-cow thrumming her hoof on a gut-string, 

A sow in short stockings pretending to dance to it. 
THE TROLL KING. Remember his understanding 

Is only human. 
TROLL MAIDENS. Oh, tear his eyes out 

And cut off his ears ! 
THE WOMAN IN GREEN [weeping}. Are we to endure it, 

My sister and I, when we've played and danced ? 
PEER GYNT. Oho, was it you ? Well, you know, at a banquet 

A joke is a joke no offence was intended. 
THE WOMAN IN GREEN. Will you swear to me you were only 

joking ? 

PEER GYNT. The dance and the music were both delightful. 
THE TROLL KING. It's a funny thing, this human nature ; 

It clings to a man with such persistence. 

Suppose we fight it and it is wounded, 

There may be a scar, but it heals up quickly. 

My son-in-law's now most accommodating ; 


Peer Gynt 

He has willingly cast off his Christian breeches, 
Willingly drunk of the mead-filled goblet, 
Willingly tied on a tail behind him 
Is so willing, in fact, to do all we ask him 
That I certainly thought the old Adam banished 
For good and all; then, all of a sudden, 
We find him uppermost. Yes, my son, 
You certainly must undergo some treatment 
To cure this troublesome human nature. 
PEER GYNT. What will you do ? 

THE TROLL KING. I'll scratch you slightly 

In the left eye, and then your vision 
Will be oblique, and all you look on 
Will seem to you to be perfection. 

Then I'll cut out your right-hand window 

PEER GYNT. You're drunk ! 

THE TROLL KING [laying some sharp instruments on the table]. 

See, here are glazier's tools. 
You must be tamed like a raging bullock ; 
Then you'll perceive that your bride is lovely, 
And never again will your sight deceive you 

With dancing sows or bell-cows thrumming 

PEER GYNT. That's fool's talk. 

THE OLDEST COURTIER. It's the Troll King's word ; 

He is the wise man and you the fool. 

THE TROLL KING. Just think what a lot of trouble and worry 
You will be rid of for good and all. 
Remember, too, that the eye is the source 
Of the bitter, searing flood of tears. 
PEER GYNT. That's true ; and it says in the family Bible : 
" If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out." 





l ic table]. 
,-ier's to 


t deceive you 
s thrumtr 

Peer Gynt 

But, tell me, when will my sight recover 

And be as it is now ? 

THE TROLL KING. Never, my friend. 

PEER GYNT. Oh, really ! Then I must decline with thanks. 
THE TROLL KING. But what do you mean to do ? 
PEER GYNT. To leave you. 

THE TROLL KING. Softly ! It's easy to get within here ; 

But the Troll King's gate doesn't open outward. 
PEER GYNT. You surely don't mean to detain me by force ? 
THE TROLL KING. Now, listen, Prince Peer, and give way to reason ! 

You're cut out for a Troll. Why, look, already 

You bear yourself quite in a Troll-like fashion ! 

And you want to become one, don't you ? 
PEER GYNT. Of course. 

In return for a bride and a well-found kingdom 

I'm not unwilling to sacrifice something ; 

But all things have their natural limit. 

I have taken a tail, it is true ; but, then, 

I can undo the knots that our friend has tied 

And take the thing off. I have shed my breeches ; 

They were old and patched ; but that won't prevent me 

From putting them on if I have a mind to. 

I shall probably find it just as easy 

To deal with your Trollish way of living. 

I can easily swear that a cow's a maiden ; 

An oath's not a difficult thing to swallow. 

But to know that one never can get one's freedom 

Not even to die as a human being 

To end one's days as a Troll of the mountains 

Never go back, as you tell me plainly 

That is a thing that I'll not submit to. 


Peer Gynt 

THE TROLL KING. Now, on my sins, I'm getting angry; 

I'm not in the mood to be made a fool of. 

You scurvy lout! Do you know who I am? 

To begin with, you make too free with my daughter 

PEER GYNT. That's a lie in your throat! 

THE TROLL KING. And you'll have to marry her. 

PEER GYNT. Do you dare accuse me of ? 

THE TROLL KING. Can you deny 

That she was the object of all your desire? 
PEER GYNT [whistles]. But no more than that. What the deuce does 

that matter? 
THE TROLL KING. You human beings are always the same: 

You are always ready to talk of your souls, 

But heed nothing really save what is tangible. 

You think desires are things that don't matter? 

Wait ; your own eyes will prove to you shortly 

PEER GYNT. It's no use baiting your hook with lies ! 

THE TROLL KING. My Peer, ere the year's out you'll be a father. 

PEER GYNT. Unlock the doors. I'm going. 

THE TROLL KING. We'll send you 

The brat in a goat-skin. 
PEER GYNT [wiping the sweat from his brow] . I wish I could wake 


THE TROLL KING. Shall we send to your Palace ? 
PEER GYNT. Oh, send to the Parish ! 

THE TROLL KING. As you like, Prince Peer ; it's your affair solely. 

But one thing is certain what's done can't be undone, 

And you will see how your offspring will grow up ! 

Mongrels like that grow remarkably quickly 

PEER GYNT. Oh, come, old chap, don't go at me like a bullock ! 

Fair maiden, be reasonable ! Let's come to terms. 


Peer Gynt 

I have to confess that I'm neither a prince 

Nor rich ; and, however you take my measure, 

I'm sure you won't find you've made much of a bargain. 

[The WOMAN IN GREEN faints and is carried out by the TROLL 


THE TROLL KING [looks at him for a while with a contemptuous ex- 
pression, then says]. Dash him to bits on the rocks, my good 
children ! 
TROLL IMPS. Dad, mayn't we first play at Owls and Eagles ? 

Or the Wolf-Game ? Or Grey Mouse and Fiery-Eyed Pussy ? 
THE TROLL KING. Yes, but be quick. I'm angry and sleepy. 

Good night ! [Goes. 

PEER GYNT [hunted by the TROLL IMPS]. Let me go, devil's brats ! 

[Tries to climb up the chimney. 
TROLL IMPS. Hobgoblins ! 

Brownies ! Come, bite him ! 

[Tries to get away through the cellar-flap. 
TROLL IMPS. Stop all the holes up ! 

TROLL COURTIER. How the youngsters enjoy it ! 
PEER GYNT [fighting with an IMP who has bitten deep into his ear]. 

You filth, let go ! 
TROLL COURTIER [rapping PEER GYNT over the knuckles]. A little 

respect for a king's son, you scoundrel ! 

PEER GYNT. Ah ! A rat hole ! [Runs towards it. 

TROLL IMPS. Stop up the holes, Brownie brothers ! 

PEER GYNT. The old man was foul, but the young ones are worse ! 
TROLL IMPS. Flay him ! 

PEER GYNT. I wish I were small as a mouse ! 

TROLL IMPS [swarming about him] Don't let him escape ! 
PEER GYNT. I wish I were a louse ! 


Peer Gynt 

TROLL IMPS. Now jump on his face ! 

PEER GYNT [smothered in TROLLS]. Help, mother, I'm dying! 

[Church bells are heard afar off. 
TROLL IMPS. Bells in the Valley ! The Blackfrock's Cows ! 

[The TROLLS disperse in a turmoil amid wild shrieks. The Hall 
falls to pieces. Everything disappears. 


Pitch darkness. PEER GYNT is heard slashing and hitting about him with 
a branch of a tree. 

PEER GYNT. Answer ! Who are you ? 


PEER GYNT. Let me pass, then ! 

VOICE. Go round about, Peer ! Room enough on the mountain. 

[PEER GYNT tries to pass another way, but runs up against some- 

PEER GYNT. Who are you ? 

VOICE. Myself. Can you say as much ? 

PEER GYNT. I can say what I like, and my sword can strike ! 

Look out for yourself! I'm going to smash you ! 

King Saul slew hundreds ; Peer Gynt slays thousands ! 

[Hits about him wildly. 

Who are you ? 
VOICE. Myself. 

PEER GYNT. That's a silly answer, 

And you can keep it. It tells me nothing. 

What are you ? 

VOICE. The great Boyg. 1 

PEER GYNT. No, are you really ? 

Things were black before ; now some grey is showing. 

Out of my way, Boyg ! 

VOICE. Go round about, Peer ! 

PEER GYNT. No, through you ! [Hits out wildly. 

1 A monstrous invisible Troll whose legend occurs frequently in Scandinavian folklore. 

F 79 

Peer Gynt 

He's down ! 

[Tries to get on, but always runs up against something. 
Ha, ha! Are there more of you ? 
VOICE. The Boyg, Peer Gynt! The one and only. 

The Boyg that's unwounded, the Boyg that was hurt. 

The Boyg that was dead and the Boyg that's alive. 
PEER GYNT [throwing away his branch}. My weapon's bewitched; 
but I have my fists ! [Strikes out in front of him. 

VOICE. Yes, put your trust in your fists and strength ! 

Ho, ho ! Peer Gynt, they'll bring you out top ! 
PEER GYNT. Backward or forward, it's just as far 

Out or in, the way's as narrow. 

It's there '.and there ! and all about me ! 

I think I've got out, and I'm back in the midst of it. 

What's your name ! Let me see you ! Say what you are ! 
VOICE. The Boyg. 

PEER GYNT [feeling round him] . Neither dead, nor alive ; slime and 
mistiness ; 

No shape or form ! It's as if one were smothered 

Amidst any number of bears that are growling 

At being waked up ! [Shrieks. 

Why don't you hit out at me ! 
VOICE. The Boyg's not so foolish as that. 
PEER GYNT. Oh, strike at me ! 

VOICE. The Boyg doesn't strike. 

PEER GYNT. Come, fight ! You shall fight with me ! 

VOICE. The great Boyg can triumph without any fighting. 
PEER GYNT. I'd far rather it were the Brownies tormenting me ! 

Or even as much as a one-year-old Troll ! 

Just something to fight with and not this blank nothingness ! 

It's snoring now ! Boyg ! 


Peer Gynt 

VOICE. What is it ? 

PEER GYNT. Show fight, will you ! 

VOICE. The great Boyg can get all he wishes by gentleness. 
PEER GYNT [biting his own hands and arms]. Oh, for claws and teeth 
that would tear my flesh ! 

I must see a drop of my own blood flow ! 

[A sound is heard like the beating of wings of great birds. 
BIRDS' CRIES. Is he coming, Boyg? 
VOICE. Yes, foot by foot. 

BIRDS' CRIES. Sisters afar off, fly to meet us ! 
PEER GYNT. If you mean to save me, girl, be quick ! 

Don't hang your head and look down blushing. 

Your prayer-book ! Hit him straight in the eye with it ! 
BIRDS' CRIES. He's failing ! 
VOICE. He's ours. 

BIRDS' CRIES. Come, sisters, quickly ! 

PEER GYNT. An hour of torture such as this 

Is too dear a price to pay for life. [Sinks down. 

BIRDS' CRIES. Boyg, he is down ! Boyg, seize him ! Seize him ! 

[Church bells and the singing of psalms are heard in the distance. 
VOICE [with a gasp, as the BOY G gradually dwindles away to nothing]. 
He was too strong. There were women behind him. 



On the hillside outside a hut on AASE'S mountain pasture. It is sunrise. 
The door of the hut is barred. Everything is empty and still. PEER 
GYNT lies asleep by the hut. Presently he wakes and looks around 
him with listless and heavy eyes. 

PEER GYNT [spitting]. I'd give the world for a pickled herring! 

[He spits again; then he sees HELGA approaching, carrying a basket 
of food. 

You here, youngster ? What do you want ? 

HELGA. It was Solveig 

PEER GYNT [springing up\. Where is she? 

HELGA. Behind the hut. 

SOLVEIG [from behind the hut]. If you come any nearer I'll run 

away ! 
PEER GYNT [standing still]. Perhaps you're afraid I shall carry you 


SOLVEIG. For shame ! 
PEER GYNT. Do you know where I was last night ? 

The Troll King's daughter is hunting me down. 
SOLVEIG. 'Twas well done, then, that we rang the bells. 
PEER GYNT. Oh, Peer Gynt's not quite the lad to get caught 

What's that you say ? 
HELGA [crym^]. She's running away. [Runs after SOLVEIG. 

Wait for me ! 
PEER GYNT [gripping her by the arm] . See what I've got in my pocket ! 

A fine silver button ! And you shall have it 

If you speak up for me ! 


Peer Gynt 

HELGA. Oh, let me go ! 

PEER GYNT. Take it, then. 

HELGA. Oh, let me go ! and my basket ! 

PEER GYNT. You had better look out if you don't ! 

HELGA. Oh, you frighten me ! 

PEER GYNT [quietly, as he lets her go]. No; all I meant was: don't 

let her forget me ! [HELGA runs off. 



The depths of a pine-wood. It is a grey autumn day, and snow is falling. 
PEER GYNT is in his shirt-sleeves, felling timber. He has just tackled 
a tall tree with crooked branches. 

PEER GYNT. Oh, yes, you're tough, my ancient friend, 
But that won't help you ; you're coming down ! 

[Sets to work again. 

I know you're wearing a coat of mail ; 
But I'll slash through, were it never so strong. 
Yes, you may shake your crooked arms ; 
I dare say you're both fierce and angry, 

But all the same you shall bow to me ! 

[Suddenly breaks off sullenly. 
What lies ! It's only an ancient tree. 
What lies ! I'm fighting no mail-clad foe ; 
It's only a fir with its bark all cracked. 
It's toilsome work, this felling timber ; 
But the devil's own job when all the time 
One's dreams get mixed up with one's working. 
All that must stop this daytime dreaming 
And always being in the clouds. 
My lad, remember that you're an outlaw ! 
Your only shelter's in this forest. 

[Works again hurriedly for a while. 
An outlaw, yes. You have no mother 
To bring you food and spread your table. 
If you want to eat you must help yourself; 


Peer Gynt 

Get what you can from the woods and the stream ; 

Forage for sticks if you want a fire ; 

Look to yourself for everything. 

If you need clothes you must skin a deer; 

If you want a wall to put round your house 

You must break the stones; if you want to build 

You must fell the timber and shoulder it 

And carry it to the spot you've chosen. 

[He lets his axe fall and stares in front of him. 
I'll build a beauty ! Up on the roof 
I'll have a tower and weather-vane, 
And on the gable-end I'll carve 
A lovely mermaid. Vane and locks 
Shall be of brass, and window-panes 
Shall shine so bright that from afar 
People shall wonder what it is 

That they see gleaming in the sun. [Laughs bitterly. 

Damned lies ! Why, there I go again ! 

Remember that you're an outlaw, boy! [Sets to work feverishly. 
A well-thatched hut is quite enough 

To keep out both the frost and rain. [Looks up at the tree. 

It's giving way. One more stroke ! There ! 
He's down and fallen all his length, 
And all the undergrowth is quivering. 

[Sets to work to lop off the branches; all at once he stops and listens, 

with uplifted axe. 

There's some one coming ! Ingrid's father 
Trying to catch me treacherously ! 

[Hides behind a tree and peeps out. 
A boy ! Just one. And he looks frightened. 
He's glancing round him. What is that 


Peer Gynt 

He's hiding underneath his jacket? 

A sickle. Now he stands and looks 

He lays his hand upon a log 

What now? Why does he brace himself ? 

Ugh ! He has chopped a finger off! 

And now he's bleeding like a pig 

And now he runs off with his hand 

Wrapped in a clout. [Comes forward. 

He must be mad ! 

Chopped it right off! a precious finger ! 
And did it too as if he meant it. 
Oho, I see ! If one's not anxious 
To serve His Gracious Majesty 
That is the only way. So that's it ! 
They would have called him for the army, 
But he, I see, would be exempted. 

Still, to cut off ! To lose for ever ! 

The thought, perhaps the wish the will 
Those I could understand ; but really 
To do the deed ! Ah, no that beats me ! 

[Shakes his head a little; then resumes his work- 



A room in AASE'S house. Everything is in disorder. The clothes-chest is 
standing open; clothes lie scattered about; a cat is lying on the bed. 
AASE and KARI are trying to put things in order. 

AASE [running to one side of the room]. Kari, tell me 

KARI. What is it? 
AASE. Tell me 

Where is ? Where shall I find ? Oh, tell me, 

Where is ? What am I looking for ? 

I'm going crazy! Where's the chest key? 
KARI. It's in the keyhole. 

AASE. What's that rumbling ? 

KARI. The last load going off to Haegstad. 1 
AASE [iveeping]. I wish they were taking me in my coffin! 

What we poor creatures have to suffer ! 

God pity me ! The whole house emptied ! 

What Haegstad left the Judge has taken. 

They've scarcely left me with a rag 

To put upon my back. It's shameful 

To have pronounced so hard a sentence ! 

[Sits down on the edge of the bed. 

The farm's gone now, and all our land. 

He's a hard man, but the Law was harder ; 

No one to help me none showed mercy 

Peer gone, and no one to advise me. 

1 As sentence for his crime of the rape of Ingrid Peer Gynt has been proclaimed an out- 
law and the forest his only sanctuary. All his possessions have become forfeit to Ingrid's 
father and to the law. 


Peer Gynt 

KARL You've got this house until you die. 
AASE. Oh, yes the bread of charity 

For me and for my cat ! 
KARL Old mother, 

God help you ! Peer has cost you dear. 
AASE. My Peer ? I think you Ve lost your senses ! 

They got their Ingrid safe and sound. 

They should have rightly blamed the Devil ; 

He is the culprit, and no other ; 

'Twas he, the ugly beast, that tempted 

My poor dear boy ! 
KARL Had you not better 

Send for the priest? For all you know 

Things may be worse than you believe. 
AASE. Send for the priest? Perhaps I'd better. [Gets up. 

No, no I cannot ! I'm his mother ; 

I must help the boy it's only my duty ; 

I must do my best, when every one fails me. 

They've left him that coat. I must get it patched. 

I wish I had dared to keep the bed-cover ! 

Where are the stockings ? 

KARL There, with that rubbish. 

AASE [fumbling among the things]. What's this? Look here! An old 
casting-ladle ! 

He used to pretend to mould buttons with this, 

Melt them and shape them and stamp them too. 

Once, when we'd company, in came the boy 

And begged of his father a bit of tin. 

"Not tin," said John, "King Christian's coin! 

A silver coin to melt, and show 

That you're the son of rich John Gynt." 


Peer Gynt 

May God forgive him, for he was drunk ; 

And when he was drunk it was all the same, 

Tin or gold. Ah, here are the stockings ! 

They are all in holes ; I must darn them, Kari. 
KARL They certainly need it. 
AASE. When that is done 

I must go to bed. I feel so bad, 

So wretchedly ill. 

Oh, look here, Kari! 

Two flannel shirts that they have forgotten ! 
KARI. Aye, so they have. 
AASE. That's a lucky find. 

You might put one of them aside. 

Or no, I think we'll take them both ; 

The one he has on is so thin and worn. 
KARI. But, Aase, you know that it's a sin ! 
AASE. Oh, yes ; but you know the parson tells us 

That all our sins may be forgiven. 



Outside a newly built hut in the forest. Reindeer horns over the door. 
Deep snow everywhere. It is nightfall. PEER GYNT is standing 
fixing a heavy wooden bolt to the door. 

PEER GYNT [laughing now and then]. There must be a bolt, to fasten 
my door 

Against the Troll-folk and men and women. 

There must be a bolt, to keep me safe 

From all the plaguy crowd of goblins. 

They'll come when it's dark, and I'll hear them knocking. 

" Open, Peer, we are quick as thoughts ! 

Under the bed, on the hearth in the ashes, 

You'll hear us creeping and crawling about ; 

We'll fly down the chimney like fiery dragons. 

Hee-hee ! Do you think your nails and planks 

Can save you from plaguy goblin-thoughts? " 

[SOLVEIG comes over the snow on ski; she has a shawl over her 

head and a bundle in her hand. 
SOLVEIG. God bless your work. You must not reject me. 

I had your message, and you must take me. 
PEER GYNT. Solveig ! It can't be ! Yes, it is ! 

And not afraid to come so near me! 
SOLVEIG. I had your message from little Helga, 

And others I had from the winds and the silence. 

There was one in all that your mother told me, 

And others that came to me in my dreams. 

The dreary nights and the empty days 

G 95 

Peer Gynt 

Brought me the message that I must come. 

All light had gone from my life down yonder ; 

I had neither the heart to laugh nor to weep. 

I could not tell what was in your mind ; 

I could only tell what I needs must do. 
PEER GYNT. But your father ? 
SOLVEIG. I've no one on God's wide earth 

That I can call father or mother now ; 

I've left them for ever. 
PEER GYNT. Solveig, my dear 

To come to me ? 
SOLVEIG. Yes, to you alone : 

You must be all to me friend and comfort. [In tears. 

The worst was leaving my little sister ; 

And worse than that, to leave my father; 

And worst of all to leave her who carried me 

At her breast ; no, God forgive me, 

The worst indeed was the bitter sorrow 

That I must part from all my dear ones ! 
PEER GYNT. And do you know the heavy sentence 

The law pronounced ? They've taken from me 

Everything that I had or might have. 
SOLVEIG. 'Twas not for what you had or might have 

I gave up what was dearest to me. 
PEER GYNT. And do you know that if I venture 

Beyond this forest I am forfeit 

If any man can lay hand on me ? 
SOLVEIG. When I asked my way as I came hither 

They questioned me where was I going ? 

" I'm going home " : that was my answer. 
PEER GYNT. Ah, then I need no bolts to guard me, 


Peer Gynt 

No locks against the powers of evil ! 

My hunter's hut is consecrated 

If you deign enter it and live there. 

Dear, let me look at you ! Not too near you 

I'd only look at you ! How lovely, 

How pure you are ! Let my arms lift you ! 

How slim and light you are, my Solveig ! 

I'd carry you for ever, dearest, 

And never weary ! I'll not soil you ; 

I'll hold your warm and lovely body 

At arms' length from me ! Ah, my Solveig, 

Can I believe I've made you love me ? 

Both night and day 'tis what I've longed for. 

See, I have built this little dwelling 

It shall come down ; it's cramped and ugly 

SOLVEIG. Little or big, I'm happy here. 

Here one can breathe in the buffeting wind. 

Down yonder 'twas sultry ; I felt hemmed in ; 

It was partly that that drove me away. 

But here, where one hears the fir-trees soughing 

Such song and silence ! I feel at home. 
PEER GYNT. But, dear, are you sure ? It means for ever ! 
SOLVEIG. There's no way back on the road I have trodden. 
PEER GYNT. You're mine, then ! Go in ! I would see you within ! 

Go in ! I will fetch some wood for a fire, 

To warm you snugly and flicker brightly ; 

You shall sit soft and never shiver. 

[He unbars the door, and SOLVEIG goes in. He stands silent for a 
moment, then laughs aloud for joy and leaps into the air. 

My princess ! Now she is found and won ! 

Now my palace shall spring into being ! 


Peer Gynt 

[Seizes his axe and crosses over towards the trees. At the same 
moment an elderly woman in a tattered green gown advances 
out of the wood; an ugly child with a flagon in his hand limps 
after her, holding on to her skirt. 
THE WOMAN. Good evening, Peer Light-Foot ! 
PEER GYNT. What is it ? Who are you ? 

THE WOMAN. Old friends, Peer Gynt ! My hut is quite near here. 

We're neighbours. 

PEER GYNT. Indeed? I was not aware of it. 

THE WOMAN. As your hut grew up, so mine grew beside it. 
PEER GYNT [trying to get away}. I'm in a great hurry. 
THE WOMAN. You always were that ; 

But, trudging along, in the end I come up with you. 
PEER GYNT. Old dame, you're mistaken ! 
THE WOMAN. I know I was once ; 

That day when you made me such wonderful promises. 

PEER GYNT. I made you promises ? Why, what the devil ? 

THE WOMAN. Do you mean you've forgotten the night when you 

At my father's ? Do you mean you've forgotten ? 

PEER GYNT. I mean 

I've forgotten what never took place to remember ! 
What nonsense is this ? And when last did we meet ? 
THE WOMAN. The last time we met was the first time we met. 

[To the child. 

Give your father a drink ; I think he is thirsty. 
PEER GYNT. His father ? You're drunk ! Do you mean that this 

urchin ? 

THE WOMAN. You're not going to say that you can't recognize him ? 
Have you eyes ? Can't you see that he's lame in the shanks 
As you're lame in your mind ? 


Peer Gynt 

PEER GYNT. Do you mean to pretend that ? 

THE WOMAN. You can't wriggle out of it ! 

PEER GYNT. That long-legged brat ? 

THE WOMAN. He has grown very fast. 

PEER GYNT. Why, you ugly old hag, 

Do you dare to assert that this ? 

THE WOMAN. Listen, Peer Gynt ; 

You're as coarse as a bullock. [Weeps. 

Oh, how can I help it 

If I'm not as fair as I was when you tempted me 

Out on the hillside up there in the mountains ? 

And when in the autumn my travail came on me 

I'd only the Devil to act as a midwife ; 

So it isn't surprising I lost all my beauty. 

But if you would see me as fair as before, 

You've only to turn out that girl that's in there, 

Out of your house and your mind and your sight; 

Do that, dearest lad, and my ill-looks will vanish ! 
PEER GYNT. Get away, you old witch ! 

THE WOMAN. You shall see if I will ! 

PEER GYNT. I'll break your head for you ! 
THE WOMAN. Try, if you dare ! 

You'll find me, Peer, a hard nut to crack ! 

Every day I shall be back again, 

Peeping at doors and spying on both of you. 

When you and your girl are sitting together, 

And you are inclined for cuddling and fondling, 

You'll find me beside you, claiming my share of it. 

She and I will share you turn about. 

Good-bye, dear boy. If you like the prospect, 

Then wed her to-morrow ! 


Peer Gynt 

PEER GYNT. You devil's nightmare ! 

THE WOMAN. But I had forgotten! You've got to look after 

Your little son this graceful urchin! 

Come on, little imp, will you go to your father? 
THE BOY [spitting at PEER]. If I had an axe I'd split you in two 
with it ! 

Just wait ! 
THE WOMAN [kissing the BOY]. What a head he's got on his 

shoulders ! 
When you've grown up you'll be just like your father! 

PEER GYNT [stamping his foot]. I wish you 

THE WOMAN. As far off as now we are near you ? 

PEER GYNT [clenching his fats]. And all this comes 

THE WOMAN. Just of thoughts and desires ! 

Hard luck for you, Peer ! 
PEER GYNT. It's hardest for her 

For Solveig my loveliest, purest treasure ! 
THE WOMAN. Oh, yes ; the innocent always suffer 
As the Devil said when his mother thrashed him 
Because his father had come home drunk ! 

[She moves off into the wood with the BOY, who throws the flagon 

behind him. 
PEER GYNT [after a long silence]. " Round about," said the Boyg; 

that's how I must go. 
My palace has tumbled about my ears ! 
She was so near me ; and now there has risen 
A wall between us, and all in a moment 
My joy is gone and everything's ugly. 
" Round about " ah, yes ; there's no straight road 
That leads through this from me to her. 
No straight road ? All the same, there might be. 




in two 
t head c on his 

JJOHT ai^cteA aa** as now we are near you? 
Just !ghts and desires ! 



who throws the flagon 
said the Boyg; 


Peer Gynt 

If I remember aright, the Bible 

Says something somewhere about repentance 

But I've no Bible, and I've forgotten 

The most of it, and in this forest 

There's not a thing that will give me guidance. 

Repent ? It might take years to do it 

Before I found the way. And, meanwhile, 

A life that's empty, ugly, dreary ; 

And in the end from shreds and fragments 

To try and patch the thing together ? 

One can patch up a broken fiddle, 

But not a watch-spring. If one tramples 

On growing things they're spoiled for ever. 

But surely the old witch was lying ! 

I can put all those ugly doings 

Out of my sight ! But can I put them 

Out of my mind ? I shall be haunted 

By lurking memories of Ingrid 

Of those three girls upon the hillside. 

Will they come too, and jeer and threaten, 

And beg of me to hold them closely 

Or lift them tenderly at arms' length ? 

It's no use ! TWere my arms as long 

As fir-trees' stems or pine-trees' branches, 

I should be holding her too near 

To set her down again unsullied. J 

I must find some way round about, 

Without a thought of gain or loss ; 

Some way to free me from such thoughts 

And shut them from my mind for ever. 

[Takes a few steps towards the hut, then stops. 

Peer Gynt 

But go in now ? Disgraced and soiled ? 

With all these Troll-folk at my heels? 

Speak, and yet not tell all? Confess, 

And still be hiding something from her? 

[Throws away his axe. 

No, no to go and meet her now, 

Such as I am, were sacrilege. 

[SOLVEIG appears at the door of the hut. 
SOLVEIG. Are you coming, dear ? 
PEER GYNT [below his breath]. " Go round about " ! 
SOLVEIG. What do you say ? 
PEER GYNT. Dear, you must wait. 

It's dark, and I've a heavy load. 
SOLVEIG. I'll come and help you bear the load. 
PEER GYNT. No, do not come ! Stay where you are ! 

I'll bear the whole of it. 
SOLVEIG. But, dear, 

Don't be too long. 
PEER GYNT. Be patient, child ; 

Whether the time is long or short 

You must just wait. 
SOLVEIG [nodding to him]. Yes, I will wait. 

[PEER GYNT goes off along the forest path. SOLVEIG remains 
standing at the half-open door. 



AASE'S house. It is evening. A log fire is burning on the hearth and lights 
up the room. A cat is lying on a chair at the foot of a bed on which 
AASE is lying, fumbling restlessly with the sheets. 

AASE. Ah, me, is my son never coming ? 

The nights are so weary and long. 

I've no one to take him a message, 

And so much to say to him now. 

My time's running short oh, how quickly ! 

To think that the end should be this ! 

If only I'd known I would never 

Have said a hard word to the boy ! [PEER GYNT comes in. 

PEER GYNT. Good evening ! 
AASE. My boy ! Oh, God bless you ! 

My dearest, at last you have come ! 

But how have you dared to come hither ? 

Your life is in danger, you know. 
PEER GYNT. My life ? oh, my life doesn't matter. 

I had to come down to you now. 
AASE. And Kari ! she said that you wouldn't ! 

Ah, now I can leave you in peace. 
PEER GYNT. Leave me ? Why, what are you saying ? 

And where do you think you can go ? 
AASE. Ah, Peer, it's the end that's approaching ; 

I haven't much longer to live. 

PEER GYNT [turning away abruptly and walking across the room]. I was 
running away from my sorrows, 


Peer Gynt 

And thought at least here I'd be free ! 

Are you cold? Are your hands and your feet cold? 
AASE. Yes, Peer ; you'll be done with me soon. 

When my eyes lose their light you must close them 

But tenderly, carefully, Peer. 

And then you must get me a coffin, 

And see that it's handsome and fine. 

Ah, no, I forgot 

PEER GYNT. Do be quiet ! 

Time enough for all that by and by. 

AASE. Yes, yes. [Looks uneasily round the room. 

Do you see what a little 

They've left me ? It's all one to them. 

PEER GYNT [with a grimace]. There you go! [Harshly. 

Yes, I know I am guilty. 

But what do you think is the good 

Of raking it up to remind me ? 
AASE. No ! It was the drink was to blame. 

That damnable drink that destroyed you, 

My boy ; for you know you were drunk, 

And didn't know what you were doing. 

Besides that wild ride on the buck ! 

I'm sure it was not to be wondered 

If you were not right in your head. 
PEER GYNT. Never mind all that nonsense and rubbish ; 

Never mind about anything now. 

Let's put off serious thinking 

Till later another day. [Sits down on the edge of the bed. 

Now, mother, let's have a gossip, 

And talk of all sorts of things, 

Except what's ugly and horrid 


Peer Gynt 

And hurts let's forget all that. 

Bless me ! Why, there's old pussy ! 

To think that he's still alive ! 
AASE. At night he seems so uneasy ; 

And we all know what that means ! 

PEER GYNT [turning away] . What is the news in the district ? 
AASE [smiling]. They do say that hereabouts 

There's a girl that longs for the mountains 

PEER GYNT [hastily]. Mads Moen is he content? 
AASE. They say that she will not listen 

To the old folks' prayers and tears. 

You ought to go and see her ; 

Maybe you could find a way 

PEER GYNT. And what's become of the blacksmith ? 
AASE. Oh, bother the dirty smith ! 

I'd so much rather tell you 

Her name that girl's, you know 

PEER GYNT. No, we're going to have a gossip, 

And talk of all sorts of things, 

Except what's ugly and horrid 

And hurts let's forget all that. 

Shall I fetch you a drink ? Are you thirsty ? 

Can you stretch in that little bed ? 

Let me look why, this is surely 

The bed I had as a boy ! 

Do you remember your sitting 

Beside my bed at night, 

Smoothing the bed-spread over, 

And singing me rhymes and songs ? 
AASE. Yes, and we played at sleighing, 

When your father had gone away 


Peer Gynt 

The bed-spread was our apron, 

And the floor an ice-bound fjord. 
PEER GYNT. Yes, but do you remember 

The finest bit of it all 

Our pair of prancing horses ? 
AASE. Why, yes of course I do. 

'Twas Kari's cat we borrowed, 

And put up on a stool. 
PEER GYNT. To Soria-Moria l Castle, 

That's westward of the moon 

And eastward of the sunrise, 

O'er hill and dale we flew. 

A stick that we found in the cupboard 

Made you a splendid whip. 

AASE. I sat up like the driver 

PEER GYNT. Yes, and you shook the reins ; 

And turned round as we galloped, 

To ask if I were cold. 

God bless you, you old scolder ! 

You were a dear to me 

Why do you groan ? 
AASE. It's my back, Peer ; 

It's sore from lying here. 
PEER GYNT. Stretch up and I'll support you. 

There now you're lying snug. 
AASE [uneasily], I want to get away, Peer. 
PEER GYNT. To get away? 
AASE. Ah, yes- 

It's what I'm always longing. 

1 The name is taken from the Arabic name of a group of islands beyond the Red Sea which 
were fabled to be the Isles of the Blest. 


Peer Gynt 

PEER GYNT. What senseless talk is that ? 

See, let me smooth the bed-clothes 

And then sit on the bed. 

Now we will make the time fly 

With singing rhymes and songs. 
AASE. No, let me have my prayer-book ; 

My mind is ill at ease. 
PEER GYNT. In Soria-Moria Castle 

They're having a splendid feast. 

Rest back upon the cushions ; 

I'll drive you quickly there 

AASE. But, dear, am I invited ? 

PEER GYNT. Of course and I am, too. 

[He throws a cord round the hack of the chair on which the cat is 
lying, takes a stick in his hand, and sits on the foot of the bed. 

Gee up ! Get on with you, Blackie ! 

Mother, you're sure you're not cold ? 

Aha ! Now we shall be moving, 

When Grane kicks up his heels ! 

AASE. But, Peer I hear something ringing 

PEER GYNT. It's the glittering sleigh-bells, dear. 
AASE. They sound so strange and hollow ! 
PEER GYNT. We're driving over a fjord. 
AASE. I'm frightened ! What is it that's sighing 

And moaning so wild and drear ? 
PEER GYNT. It's only the firs on the hillside 

Whispering. Just sit still. 
AASE. I seem to see lights in the distance. 

What is it that's glistening there ? 
PEER GYNT. It's the windows and gates of the Castle. 

Can you hear the dancers ? 


Peer Gynt 

AASE. Yes. 

PEER GYNT. And outside stands Saint Peter, 

Asking you to come in. 
AASE. Does he greet me ? 
PEER GYNT. Yes, with honour, 

And offers you sweetest wine. 
AASE. Wine ! Does he offer cakes, too ? 
PEER GYNT. A plateful of them, yes ! 

And our parson's wife preparing 

Your coffee and your dessert. 
AASE. What ! Shall I really meet her ? 
PEER GYNT. As soon and as oft as you please. 
AASE. You're driving your poor old mother 

To a splendid party, Peer ! 
PEER GYNT [smacking his whip}. Gee up! Get on with you, 


AASE. Are you sure that you know the way ? 
PEER GYNT [smacking his whip again}. I can see the road. 
AASE. But the journey 

Makes me feel ill and tired. 
PEER GYNT. I can see the Castle before me ; 

The drive will soon be done. 
AASE. I'll lie back with my eyes shut, 

And trust to you, my boy. 
PEER GYNT. Now show your paces, Grane ! 

The Castle is all agog ; 

The folk all swarm to the gateway ; 

Peer Gynt and his mother arrive ! 

Why, what's that, Mister Saint Peter ? 

You won't let my mother in ? 

You must look far, I can tell you, 




up ! ou, 

s, Granc 

IG journey 

Peer Gynt 

To find a worthier soul. 

Of myself I will say nothing ; 

I can turn back to the gate. 

I'll take pot-luck, if you'll have me ; 

If not, it's all one to me. 

Like the Devil in the pulpit, 

I've told a heap of lies, 

And have called my dear old mother 

A silly old hen, I know, 

Because she cackled and scolded ; 

But things must be different here. 

You must respect and revere her, 

Sincerely and honestly ; 

You'll not get anyone better 

From our parts nowadays. 

Oho ! Here's God the Father ! 

Saint Peter, you'll catch it now ! [Speaks in a deep voice. 

"Just stop that bullying, will you! 

Mother Aase is welcome here! " 

[Laughs aloud and turns to his mother. 
I knew how 'twould be ! Saint Peter 

Is singing small enough now ! [His voice takes on an anxious tone. 
Why do you stare so, mother ? 
Have you lost your senses, dear? [Goes to the head of the bed. 

You mustn't lie and stare so ! 

SpeaK, mother ; it's I, your boy ! 

[Feels her forehead and hands cautiously ; then throws the cord away 

on to the chair and says in a low voice: 
So it's that ! You may rest now, Grane ; 

Our journey's over and done. [Shuts her eyes and bends over her. 
Thanks, dear, for all you gave me, 


Peer Gynt 

Thrashings and kisses alike ! 

And now it's for you to thank me 

[Presses his cheek against her lips. 

There that was the driver's fee. [KARI comes in. 

KARL What ? Peer ! Then her deepest sorrow 

And grieving will be forgot ! 

Good Lord, how sound she is sleeping ! 

Or is she ? 

PEER GYNT. Hush, she is dead. 

[KARI weeps by AASE'S body. PEER GYNT walks to and fro in the 

room; at last he stops by the bedside. 
PEER GYNT. See that she's decently buried. 

I must try to escape from here. 
KARL Where shall you go ? 
PEER GYNT. To the sea-coast. 

KARI. So far! 
PEER GYNT. Aye, and farther still. [Goes out. 





A grove of palm-trees on the south-west coast of Morocco. A dining-table 
is spread under an awning; rush matting underfoot. Farther hack in 
the grove hammocks are hanging. A steam yacht, flying the Norwegian 
and American flags, is lying off the shore. A jolly-boat is drawn up 
on the beach. It is nearly sunset. PEER GYNT, now a good-looking 
middle-aged man, dressed in a neat travelling-suit, with a pair of gold- 
mounted eyeglasses dangling on his breast, is presiding at table as host 
HERR TRUMPETERSTRAALE. The party have just finished a meal. 
PEER GYNT is passing the wine. 

PEER GYNT. Drink, gentlemen ! If man is meant 

For pleasure let him take his pleasure. 

The past's the past what's done is done 

So we are taught. What may I give you ? 
HERR TRUMPETERSTRAALE. As host, dear brother Gynt, you're 

splendid ! 
PEER GYNT. The credit's just as much my purse's, 

My cook's and steward's 

MR COTTON. Very well, 

Then here's a health to all the four ! 
MONSIEUR BALLON. Monsieur, your taste your ton is such 

As nowadays one seldom meets with 

Amongst men living en gar$on 

A certain ^ ne sais quoi 


A breath, a gleam, of introspection 


Peer Gynt 

World-citizenship's inspiration; 

A glance that pierces clouds, that's free 

From any narrow prejudices ; 

A glimpse of higher criticism; 

A simple nature coupled with 

A life's experience, and thereby 

Uplifted to the highest power. 

I think that's what you meant eh, Monsieur? 
MONSIEUR BALLON. Yes, very possibly. In French 

It doesn't sound quite so impressive. 
HERR VON EBERKOPF. Of course not. French is somewhat 

But if we want to trace the source 

Of this phenomenon 

PEER GYNT. That's easy ; 

It's just because I've never married. 

Why, gentlemen, the thing's as clear 

As daylight. What's a man's first duty ? 

The answer's brief: To be himself- 
To take good care of all that touches 

Himself and what is his. But how 

Can he do this if his existence 

Is that of a pack-camel, laden 

With some one else's weal and woe ? 
HERR VON EBERKOPF. But I dare say you've had to fight 

For this self-centred concentration? 
PEER GYNT. Oh, yes, I've had to fight for it, 

But I have always won the honours ; 

Though once I very nearly fell 

Into a trap, for all my cunning. 

I was a wild, good-looking spark, 


Peer Gynt 

And let my roving fancy capture 
A girl who was of royal blood- 

MONSIEUR BALLON. Of royal blood ? 

PEER GYNT [carelessly]. Or very nearly. 

You know 

HERR TRUMPETERSTRAALE [thumping on the table]. 

These damned aristocrats ! 

PEER GYNT [shrugging his shoulders]. These bogus Highnesses, whose 

Is to keep off from their escutcheon 

The slightest speck of what's plebeian. 
MR COTTON. And so it came to nothing, then ? 
MONSIEUR BALLON. The family opposed the match ? 
PEER GYNT. Quite the reverse ! 

PEER GYNT [discreetly]. Well, you see, 

Things took a turn which made them think 

That it was high time we were married. 

But, to be candid, the affair 

From first to last was most distasteful. 

In certain things I'm very dainty, 

And also like my independence ; 

And when her father came and hinted 

That he would make it a condition 

That I should change my name and status 

And lose my own nobility 

With lots of similar conditions 

I could not stomach or accept 

I gracefully retired from it, 

Refused the father's ultimatum, 

And gave my youthful bride her conge. 

Peer Gynt 

[Drums on the table with his fingers, and says with a pious air 
Ah, yes, there is a Hand that guides us, 
And we poor men can trust to that. 
It's very comforting to know it. 
MONSIEUR BALLON. So the affair went by the board? 
PEER GYNT. No, it took on another aspect. 

Outsiders meddled in the game 

And raised an unexpected pother. 

The youngsters of the family 

Were much the worst. I had to battle 

With seven of them all at once. 

I never shall forget that time, 

Though I emerged from it the victor. 

Some blood was spilt; but still that blood 

Sealed my certificate of valour, 

And proved what I remarked just now 

That there's a Hand that guides us wisely. 
HERR VON EBERKOPF. You have an outlook upon life 

That proves you a philosopher. 

For, while an ordinary thinker 

Sees every detail separately 

And never grasps the whole completely, 

Your vision covers all together. 

You have a universal standard 

To measure life with. Your perceptions, 

Like rays of sunlight, emanating 

From a great central contemplation, 

Pierce every fallacy. And yet 

You say you had no education ? 
PEER GYNT. I am, as I've already told you, 

A self-taught man in every way. 


Peer Gynt 

I've never learned methodically, 

But I have thought and speculated 

And read a bit on every subject. 

I was not young when I began ; 

And so, of course, it wasn't easy 

To plough the field of knowledge up 

And do the thing at all completely. 

I've learned my history in scraps ; 

For more than that I've had no leisure. 

And since, when evil days assail, 

A man needs certain things to trust in, 

I fitfully absorbed religion ; 

I found that it assimilated 

Much easier if taken that way. 

No use to glut one's self with reading, 

But to select what may be useful 

MR COTTON. Ah, now, that's practical ! 

PEER GYNT. Dear friends, 

Just think what my career has been. 

What was I when I first went westward ? 

Quite penniless and empty-handed. 

I had to work hard for my food 

No easy job, believe me, often; 

But life, my friends, is always sweet, 

And death, as we all know, is bitter. 

Well ! Luck, you see, did not desert me, 

And good old Fate was always kindly. 

Things moved, and I was always careful, 

And so things went from good to better ; 

And ten years after that they called me 

The Croesus of the Charlestown traders ; 


Peer Gynt 

My name was known in every port 

And luck pursued me with my shipping 

MR COTTON. What was your trade ? 

PEER GYNT. I trafficked most 

In negro slaves for Carolina 

And idols that were sent to China. 
MONSIEUR BALLON. Oh, fie, for shame ! 
HERR TRUMPETERSTRAALE. Friend Gynt, how could 

PEER GYNT. You think my enterprise was passing 

Beyond the bounds of what was lawful? 

I felt the same thing very keenly ; 

I found it hateful in the end. 

But, once begun, you may believe me 

'Twas difficult enough to end it. 

In any case, so big a business 

Affected others by the thousand ; 

To break it off too suddenly 

Would have, of course, been most disastrous. 

I never like to break things off; 

But, all the same, I must admit 

I've always fully been alive 

To what you'd call the consequences ; 

And, when I've overstepped the bounds, 

It's always made me feel uneasy. 

Besides, I wasn't growing younger. 

By that time I was nearly fifty, 

And by degrees my hair was greying ; 

And, though my health was always perfect, 

Thoughts such as this cropped up to plague me : 
Who knows how short the time may be 


Peer Gynt 

Before the Great Assize is summoned 

And sheep from goats are separated ? " 

What could I do ? To cease my trade 
With China was impossible. 

I found a way. I opened up 

A second traffic to those waters ; 

And, though each spring I sent to China 

Shiploads of idols, every autumn 

I sent out missionaries furnished 

With everything that could be needful 

To work conversion stockings, rum, 

Bibles, and rice 

MR COTTON. All at a profit? 

PEER GYNT. Oh, well, of course. The plan worked well. 

For every idol sold out yonder 

There was a duly baptized coolie, 

So one thing neutralized the other. 

We kept the missionaries busy, 

Because they had to counteract 

The idols that we were exporting. 
MR COTTON. But what about the negro traffic? 
PEER GYNT. Why, there my morals triumphed also. 

I felt the trade was scarcely suited 

To one whose years were fast increasing ; 

You never know when death may claim you. 

And then there were the thousand pitfalls 

Dug by our philanthropic friends, 

Besides the chance of being caught 

And daily risks from wind and weather. 

By taking thought I found a way. 
' You'll have to reef your sails, friend Peter, 


Peer Gynt 

And see "so I said to myself 
" How you can best retrieve your error ! 
I bought land in a southern state, 
And held back my last load of niggers 
(Which was of first-class quality) 
And settled them on the plantation. 
They throve apace, grew fat and sleek, 
And they, as well as I, were happy. 
Yes, without bragging I may say 
I treated them like any father 
And the result was handsome profit. 
I built them schools, so as to set 
A standard of morality 
To be maintained, and saw to it 
That it was kept well up to mark. 
And then, to make the change complete, 
Out of the business I retired, 
And sold, with livestock, as it stood, 
The whole plantation. When I left, 
To all alike, both young and old, 
A gratis gift of grog was issued, 
And every nigger got a skinful. 
The widows, as an extra gift, 
Were given snuff. And so I hope 
Unless the Word is merely froth 
Which says one's deeds are surely good 
If they are not as surely evil 
That all my errors are forgot, 
And that perhaps in greater measure 
Than in most people's case my deeds 
Will more than balance out my sins. 

1 20 

Peer Gynt 

HERR VON EBERKOPF [clinking glasses with him]. How edifying 'tis 

to hear 

A scheme of life worked out so deftly, 
Freed from the fog of theories 
And undisturbed by outer clamour ! 

PEER GYNT [who during the foregoing conversation has been applying 
f~ steadily to the bottle]. We northern men are famous hands 
\ At planning a campaign ! The secret 
. Of life's success is very simple 
Merely to keep one's ears shut tight 
To the insidious advances 

^ c . jawu 

Or a pernicious reptile. 

But what's the reptile, my dear friend ? 
PEER GYNT. A small one, always tempting men 

To take irrevocable steps. [Drinks again. 

A man can venture without fear, 

And keep his courage, if he's careful 

Not to get definitely caught 

In any of life's cunning pitfalls 

If he looks forward, and beyond 

The present moment and its chances, 

And always carefully preserves 

A bridge behind him to retire on. 

That theory has held me up 

And always coloured all my conduct 

A theory I inherited 

And learned at home from early childhood. 
MONSIEUR BALLON. You're a Norwegian, I believe ? 
PEER GYNT. By birth, yes ; but by disposition 

I am a citizen of the world. 



Peer Gynt 

For the good fortune I've enjoyed 

I have to thank America ; 

My well-stocked library I owe 

To Germany's advanced young thinkers ; 

From France I get my taste in dress, 

My manners, and whatever turn 

I have for subtleness of mind ; 

England has taught me industry 

And care for my own interests ; 

The Jews have taught me how to wait; 

From Italy I've caught a dash 

Of taste for dolce far niente; 

And once, when in a sorry fix, 

I reached the goal of my desire 

By trusting to good Swedish steel. 

HERR TRUMPETERSTRAALE [lifting his glass]. Ah, Swedish steel ! 

HERR VON EBERKOPF. Yes, first and fore- 


We offer homage to the man 

Who is a swordsman. 

[They clink glasses and drink with PEER GYNT, who is beginning to 

get heated with wine. 
MR COTTON. All you've said 

Is excellent ; but now, sir, pray 

Tell us what you propose to do 

With all your wealth. 
PEER GYNT [smiling]. Do with it, eh? 
ALL [drawing nearer to him]. Yes, let us hear! 
PEER GYNT. Well, first of all, 

To travel ; and that's why, you see, 

I took you all on board my yacht 


Peer Gynt 

As company. I had a mind 

To have a choir to worship at 

My Altar of the Golden Calf 


MR COTTON. Yes, but no one sails 

For the mere pleasure of a journey. 

You have an object, without doubt ; 

What is it ? 

PEER GYNT. To be Emperor. 
ALL. What! 

PEER GYNT [nodding his head]. To be Emperor. 
ALL. But where ? 

PEER GYNT. Of the whole world. 
MONSIEUR BALLON. But how, my friend ? 

PEER GYNT. Just simply by the power of gold ! 

It's not a new idea at all ; 

It has inspired my every effort. 

In boyish dreams I used to travel 

Over the sea upon a cloud ; 

I tried to soar to fancied grandeurs, 

And then dropped down on to all-fours ; 

But to its goal my mind was constant. 

Somewhere I can't remember where 

It says that if a man shall win 

The whole wide world, but lose himself, 

All that he gains is only like 

A wreath upon an empty skull. 

That's what it says or something like it 

And, trust me, it is pretty true. 

HERR VON EBERKOPF. But what, then, is the Gyntian Self? 
PEER GYNT. The world which lies within my brain ; 


Peer Gynt 

Which makes me me, and no one else- 
No more than God can be the Devil. 

HERR TRUMPETERSTRAALE. Now I can see at what you're driving ! 
MONSIEUR BALLON. Sublime philosopher ! 
HERR VON EBERKOPF. Great poet ! 

PEER GYNT [with growing exaltation}. The Gyntian Self! An army, 


Of wishes, appetites, desires! 
The Gyntian Self! It is a sea 
Of fancies, claims, and aspirations; 
In fact, it's all that swells within 
My breast, and makes it come about 
That I am I and live as such. 
But, just as our Good Lord had need 
Of earthly mould to be earth's God, 
So I have need of lots of gold 
If I'm to be an Emperor. 
MONSIEUR BALLON. But you are rich ! 
PEER GYNT. Not rich enough. 

Enough, perhaps, for me to pose 
For two or three days as a princeling 
In some such place as Lippe-Detmold ; 
But I must be myse //^-complete 
A Gynt fit for the universe 
Sir Peter Gynt from head to heels ! 
MONSIEUR BALLON [in transports]. To purchase all the loveliest 


The world can offer ! 
HERR VON EBERKOPF. All the bins 

Of century-old Johannisberger ! 

HERR TRUMPETERSTRAALE. The armoury of Charles the Twelfth ! 


Peer Gynt 

MR COTTON. But, before all, to seize the chance 

Of profitable business. 

I've found a way to get them all, 

And that is why we're anchored here ; 

To-night our course will be to northward. 

The newspapers I've just received 

Have brought me some important news. [Rises and lifts his glass. 

It shows that fortune always favours 

Those who have confidence to grasp it 

ALL. Well? Tell us--! 

PEER GYNT. Greece is in an uproar. 

ALL [springing to their feet]. What, have the Greeks ? 

PEER GYNT. They have revolted. 

ALL. Hurrah! 

PEER GYNT. And Turkey's in a hole. 

MONSIEUR BALLON. To Greece ! The way to glory's open ! 

I'll help them with my sword of France ! 
HERR VON EBERKOPF. I with my voice but at a distance ! 
MR COTTON. I'll get a contract to supply them ! 
HERR TRUMPETERSTRAALE. Let us away ! I'll find at Bender * 

Charles the Twelfth's famous spur-buckles ! 

MONSIEUR BALLON [falling on PEER GYNT'S neck]. Forgive me, friend, 
if for a moment 

I had misjudged you ! 
HERR VON EBERKOPF [grasping PEER GYNT by the hand]. I'm a fool! 

I almost took you for a scoundrel ! 

1 A town in Bessarabia, on the Dniester, where Charles XII spent his years of exile after 
his defeat at Pultawa in 1709. The allusion to the spur-buckles is explained as referring to the 
spurs with which Charles XII is said in a fit of anger to have torn the garments of the 
Turkish emissary who brought him the news that the Sultan had concluded a truce with 


Peer Gynt 

MR COTTON. That's much too strong say, rather, for 

A simpleton 



Had put you down as an example 
Of the worst type of Yankee rascal ! 
Forgive me ! 

HERR VON EBERKOPF. We were all mistaken 

PEER GYNT. What do you mean? 
HERR VON EBERKOPF. We now can glimpse 

The banners of the Gyntian army 

Of wishes, appetites, desires ! 

MONSIEUR BALLON [admiringly]. That's what you meant by " being 

a Gynt " ! 

HERR VON EBERKOPF [in the same tone}. A Gynt that's worthy of all 
honour ! 

PEER GYNT. But tell me ? 

MONSIEUR BALLON. Don't you understand ? 

PEER GYNT. I'm hanged if I can take your meaning. 
MONSIEUR BALLON. Why, aren't you going to help the Greeks 

With money and with ships ? 
PEER GYNT [whistling]. No, thank you! 

I'm going to help the stronger side, 
And lend my money to the Turks. 
MONSIEUR BALLON. Impossible ! 
HERR VON EBERKOPF. That's very funny ! 

But you of course must have your joke ! 

[PEER GYNT is silent for a moment, then leans on a chair and 

assumes an air oj importance. 
PEER GYNT. Gentlemen, we had better part 
Before the last remains of friendship 


Peer Gynt 

Dissolve like wreaths of smoke. The man 

Who hasn't anything may lightly 

Take any chances ; those whose all 

Is no more than the scrap of earth 

They stand on are the fittest far 

For sacrifice and cannon-fodder. 

But when a man's well off, as I am, 

He risks a greater stake than they. 

Pray go to Greece. I'll land you there, 

And furnish you with weapons gratis ; 

The more you fan the flames of strife, 

The better it will be for me. 

Strike hard for Freedom and the Right ! 

Attack the Turks and give them hell ; 

And meet a glorious end upon 

A janissary's spear-point. But 

Excuse me if I don't come with you. [Slaps his pockets. 

I've money in my pockets, and 

I am Myself Sir Peter Gynt. 

[Puts up his umbrella and goes into the grove where the hammocks 

are hanging. 


MONSIEUR BALLON. He has no sense of honour ! 

MR COTTON. Oh, honour let that pass. But think 

What splendid profits we could make 

If only Greece could free herself 

MONSIEUR BALLON. I saw myself acclaimed a victor 

By crowds of lovely Grecian women! 
HERR TRUMPETERSTRAALE. I felt those famous buckles safe 

Within my Swedish grasp ! 

i 127 

Peer Gynt 

My glorious fatherland's Kultur 

Spread widely over land and sea 

MR COTTON. The actual loss is worst of all. 

Goddam ! l I feel inclined to cry ! 

I saw myself proprietor 

Of Mount Olympus, which contains 

(Unless what men have said is false) 

Rich veins of copper to be worked; 

And the renowned Castalian stream 

Its many waterfalls would yield 

A thousand horse-power, easily ! 
HERR TRUMPETERSTRAALE. I shall go, all the same ! My sword 

Is worth more, still, than Yankee gold. 
MR COTTON. Perhaps ; but, fighting in the ranks, 

We should be merely swamped by numbers. 

What profit should we get from that ? 
MONSIEUR BALLON. Curse it! So near the heights of fortune 

And then to be dashed down again. 

MR COTTON [shaking his fist at the yacht]. To think that all this 
nabob's gold 

That he has sweated from his niggers 

Is in that ship ! 
HERR VON EBERKOPF. An inspiration ! 

Come on, and let us act ! His empire 

Shall come to nothing now ! Hurrah ! 
MONSIEUR BALLON. What will you do ? 
HERR VON EBERKOPF. I'll seize his power ! 

The crew will easily be bought. 

On board ! I'll commandeer his yacht ! 
MR COTTON. You'll what? 

1 So in the original. 

Peer Gynt 

HERR VON EBERKOPF. I mean to bag the lot. 

[Goes towards the jolly-boat. 
MR COTTON. It's clearly to my interest 

To share with you. [Follows him. 

HERR TRUMPETERSTRAALE. There goes a scamp ! 
MONSIEUR BALLON. A proper scoundrel ! But enfin ! 

[Follows the others. 

HERR TRUMPETERSTRAALE. Well, I suppose I may as well 
Go with them under protest, though ! [Follows. 



Another part of the coast. Moonlight and passing clouds. Out at sea the 
yacht is seen steaming at full speed. PEER GYNT is running along 
the shore, now pinching himself in the arm, now staring out to sea. 

PEER GYNT. It's nightmare ! illusion ! I soon shall wake up ! 
It's heading to sea ! And at top of its speed ! 
It's a dream, and I'm sleeping ! I'm drunk or I'm mad ! 

[ Wrings his hands. 

It's impossible that I should perish like this ! [Tears his hair. 

It's a dream ! It must be it shall be a dream ! 
It's terrible ! Ah, but alas it is true ! 

My scoundrelly friends ! Oh, hear me, Good Lord ! 

You are Wisdom and Justice oh, punish them, Lord! 

[Stretches up his arms. 

It is I Peter Gynt ! Do look after me, Lord ! 
Take care of me, Father, or else I shall die ! 
Make them slacken the engines or cast off the gig ! 
Stop the robbers ! Make something go wrong with the works ! 
Do listen ! Leave other folk's matters alone ! 

The world will look after itself while You do 

He's not listening. He is as deaf as a post ! 

It's too much ! A God that can't think what to do ! 

[Beckons up to the sky. 

I say ! I've disposed of my negro plantation, 
And sent heaps of missionaries out to Asia. 
Don't You think that one good turn's deserving another? 

Oh, help me to get on the ship ! 


Peer Gynt 

[A sudden glare rises into the sky from the yacht, followed by a 
thick cloud of smoke. A dull explosion is heard. PEER GYNT 
utters a shriek and sinks down on the sand. The smoke 
gradually disperses, and the yacht is seen to have disappeared. 
PEER GYNT looks up, with a pale face, and says in a low voice: 

'Twas a judgment ! 

Sunk with all hands in a moment of time ! 
All thanks to the chances of fortune. [Emotionally. 

No, no ! 

There was more than the chances of fortune in this, 
That I should be saved while the rest of them perish. 
Thanks be to Thee who hast been my protector 
And kept an eye on me in spite of my failings ! 

[Takes a deep breath. 

What a wonderful feeling of safety and comfort 
It gives you to know that you're specially guarded ! 
But where shall I find meat and drink in the desert ? 
I don't know, I'm sure. But He will understand. 
It can't be so dangerous. [In a loud and insinuating voice. 

He will not suffer 

Such a poor little sparrow as I am to perish ! 
I must humble myself and allow Him some time. 
The Lord will provide ; I must not be downhearted. 

[Springs to his feet with a cry of terror. 

Did I hear a lion ? That growl in the rushes ? 

[His teeth chatter. 
No, it was no lion. [Pulls himself together. 

I'm certain it was ! 

Those creatures, of course, know to keep at a distance; 
They dare not take bites at a lord of creation. 
They have instinct, of course; it's by instinct they feel 


Peer Gynt 

That an elephant's not a safe thing to attack. 

All the same, I will see if I can't find a tree. 

Ah, there I see palms and acacias waving ; 

If I climb one of them I'll get safety and shelter 

Especially if I can only remember 

Some psalms to repeat. [Climbs up a tree. 

" Lo, morning and evening 
Are different things " that's a verse that is often 
Discussed and examined. [Settles himself in the tree. 

How pleasant it is 

To feel that one's soul is so nobly uplifted ! 
Thoughts that ennoble are worth more than riches. 
I'll trust myself to Him. He knows just how far 
I am able to drink of the cup of affliction. 
He takes a most fatherly interest in me 

[Looks out over the sea, and whispers with a sigh: 
But He's not what you'd call economical over it ! 



A Moroccan camp on the edge of the desert, at night. WARRIORS are 
resting by a watch-fire. 

A SLAVE [running in and tearing his hair]. Gone is the Emperor's 

white charger ! 
ANOTHER SLAVE [running in and rending his garments]. The Emperor's 

sacred garb is stolen ! 
A CHIEF OF THE WARRIORS [coming in]. A hundred strokes of the 

To all of you if the thieves escape! 

[The WARRIORS spring on to their steeds and gallop off in all 



A clump of palm-trees and acacias. It is dawn. PEER GYNT, in a tree, 
is trying to defend himself with a broken-off branch against a swarm 
of apes. 

PEER GYNT. I've spent an extremely uncomfortable night. 

[Hits about him. 

Is that them again ? The infernal creatures ! 
They're throwing down fruit. No, it's something else. 
Apes are the most disgusting beasts ! 
It is written that one must watch and fight ; 
But I can't do it I'm wearied out. 

[Is disturbed again. Speaks impatiently. 
I must make an end of all this discomfort 
Try and get hold of one of these creatures, 
Hang him and flay him, and dress myself up 
From head to foot in his shaggy hide ; 
Then the others will think I am one of them. 
We men are but nothing, after all, 
And must bow to the force of circumstances. 
Another lot ! Why, they swarm like flies ! 
Away with you ! Shoo ! They act like madmen. 
If only I could get a false tail 

Or something to make me look like a beast 

What's that up there above my head? [Looks up. 

An old one his paws chock-full of filth ! 

[Crouches down nervously and keeps still for a little. The ape makes 
a movement; PEER GYNT tries to coax him, as one would a dog. 


Peer Gynt 

Hullo, old man ! Is that you up there ? 

He's a good chap, if you speak to him kindly. 

He won't throw things down will he ? No ! 

It's I ! Good dog ! We're the best of friends. 

Wuff, wuff! Do you hear, I can speak your language ? 

Old man and I are as good as cousins ! 

Would he like a nice big bit of sugar ? 

The dirty beast ! He's thrown the lot 

All over me ! Disgusting brute ! 

Or was it food, perhaps ? Its taste 

Was unfamiliar, certainly ; 

But taste is mostly a thing of habit. 

What is it that some philosopher 

Has said: You must just spit, and trust 

To force of habit. Here's the crowd 

Of youngsters now ! [Hits about him. 

This is too much ! 
That man, who's his Creator's image, 

Should have to suffer Murder ! Help ! 

The old one's foul, but the youngsters, fouler ! 



A rocky spot overlooking the desert. It is early morning. On one side 
a ravine with the entrance to a cave. A THIEF and a RECEIVER OF 
STOLEN GOODS are standing in the ravine, with the Emperor's 
charger and robe. The charger, richly caparisoned, is tied to a rock. 
HORSEMEN are seen in the distance. 

THIEF. Spear-points, gleaming 

In the sunshine ! 

See! see! 
RECEIVER. I hear them galloping 

Over the sand ! 

Woe! Woe! 
THIEF [folding his arms on his breast]. My father thieved; 

His son must steal. 
RECEIVER. My father received ; 

And so must I. 
THIEF. We must bear our lot, 

And be ourselves. 
RECEIVER [listening]. Footsteps in the thicket! 

Away ! But where ? 
THIEF. The cave is deep 

And the Prophet great ! 

[They fly, leaving the stolen goods behind them. The HORSEMEN 
disappear in the distance. PEER GYNT comes in, whittling a 
PEER GYNT. Really a most enchanting morning ! 

The beetles are busy at work in the sand ; 


Peer Gynt 

Out of their shells the snails are peeping. 
Morning ! Ah, morning's worth more than gold ! 
It's strange what a very remarkable power 
There is in daylight. In its beams 
You feel so safe your courage waxes 
You're ready to fight wild bulls, if need be. 

What silence around me ! These rural joys 

It's strange that I never appreciated 

These things so much till now. To think 

That men live cooped up in great cities, 

Just to be pestered and plagued by people. 

Look at those lizards, bustling about 

Enjoying the air and thinking of nothing. 

What innocence in the life of beasts ! 

They perform the behest of their great Creator, 

Their character stamped indelibly on them ; 

They are themselves, whether playing or fighting 

Themselves, as they were when He first said " Be." 

[Puts on his eyeglasses. 

A toad looking out of a piece of sandstone, 
Only his head peeping out of his chamber. 
He sits, as if looking out of a window 

At the world ; to himself he is enough. [Thoughtfully. 

Enough ? Where have I read that before ? 
Most probably in the Great Book I read 
As a boy. Or perhaps it was in the Prayer-book ? 
Or else set down in Solomon's Proverbs ? 
Dear me I notice, as years go on, 
I cannot remember times and places 

As once I used. [Sits down in the shade. 

Here's a spot that's cool ; 

Peer Gynt 

I'll sit and rest my bones awhile. 

Ah, here are ferns one can eat the roots. [Tastes one. 

It's really food for beasts ; but then 
The Book says we must subdue our natures, 
And, further, that pride must be abased. 

' Who humbleth himself, shall be exalted." [Uneasily. 

Exalted ? Of course that will happen to me 
The contrary's quite unthinkable. 
Fate surely will help me away from here 
And set my feet on the road to fortune. 
This is but a test ; if the Lord will grant me 
Strength to endure I'll be rescued later. 

[Shakes off such thoughts, lights a cigar, stretches himself out, and 

gazes over the desert. 
What an enormous, boundless waste ! 
Far off, there, I can see an ostrich. 
It is hard to perceive the Almighty's purpose 
In all this dead and empty desert, 
Where there is nothing that is life-giving ; 
A burnt-up waste that profits no one, 
This bit of the world that's for ever sterile ; 
A corpse that never, since it was shaped, 
Has brought its Creator anything 
Not even thanks. Why was it made ? 
Nature is ever extravagant. 
Is that the sea that glitters yonder, 
Away in the east ? No only mirage. 
The sea's to the west, where, like a dam, 
Sandhills protect the desert from it. [An idea strikes him. 

A dam ! Then I might ! The hills are low. 

A dam ! Then a cutting a canal 


Peer Gynt 

And through the gap the rushing waters 

Would fill the desert with a life-flood, 

And all this empty burnt-up grave 

Become a fresh and rippling ocean ! 

Islands would show in it where now 

There are oases ; to the north, 

Atlas would fringe the shore with verdure ; 

And to the south, like heedless birds, 

White sails would skim along, where now 

The caravans plod painfully ; 

A lively breeze would dissipate 

This stuffy air, and from the clouds 

A gentle dew would fall. In time 

Town after town would be established, 

And grass grow round the swaying palm-trees. 

The country beyond the Sahara's edge, 

Away in the south, would become a land 

Of busy trade and seamen's ventures. 

Steam should drive works in Timbuktu, 

New colonies arise in Bornu, 

And the explorer should be carried 

Safe in his wagon through the land 

Of Habes 1 to the Upper Nile. 

Then in the middle of my sea, 

On the most fertile, rich oasis, 

I'll settle Norsemen for the blood 

Of dalesmen is the nearest thing 

To that of royalty ; a cross 

With Arab blood will do the rest. 

And on a cape with sloping shore 

1 The Arabic name for Abyssinia. 

Peer Gynt 

I'll build Peeropolis, the capital ! 

The old world's out of date ; and now 

It is the turn of Gyntiana, 1 

My new-born land ! [Springs up. 

I only need 

Some capital, and the thing is done 
A golden key, and the ocean's gate 
Is open ! A crusade 'gainst death ! 
That grisly miser shall disgorge 
The hidden treasure that he's hoarding. 
There is a world-wide wish for freedom. 
Like Noah's donkey in the Ark, 
I'll bray my message to the world ; 
Liberty's baptism I will pour 
Over these prisoned shores, till they 
Grow lovely in their freedom ! Forward ! 
In east or west I'll have to seek 
The money for the work ! My kingdom 
Or half my kingdom for a horse ! 

[The horse in the ravine neighs. 
A horse ! And robes ! And ornaments ! 
And weapons ! [Goes nearer. 

It's impossible 

And yet it's true ! I know I've read 
Somewhere that faith can move a mountain, 
But never thought that it could bring 
A horse ! I must be dreaming ! No, 
It is a fact there stands the horse ! 
Ab esse ad posse, etcetera. 

1 The Norwegian violinist Ole Bull had founded, with disastrous financial results, a 
Norwegian colony of ' Oleana ' in America on the model approved by the French Socialists. 

K 143 

Peer Gynt 

[Puts on the robe and looks himself over. 
Sir Peter and Turk from head to foot ! 
Well, truly one can never tell 
What's going to happen to one ! Come up, 
Grane, my steed ! [Climbs into the saddle. 

Gold stirrups, too ! 
Great folk are known by the steeds they ride ! 

[Gallops away across the desert. 



The tent of an Arab chieftain on an oasis. PEER GYNT, in his Oriental 
robes, is taking his ease on a divan, drinking coffee and smoking a long 
pipe. ANITRA and a troupe of GIRLS are dancing and singing to him. 


The Prophet is come ! 
The Prophet, the Lord, the All-Wise One, 
To us, to us he has come, 
Riding over the sea of sand ! 
The Prophet, the Lord, the Infallible, 
To us, to us he has come, 
Sailing over the sea of sand ! 
Blow flute ! Sound drum ! 
The Prophet, the Prophet is come ! 

His charger is white as milk 
In the streams of Paradise ! 
Bend the knee ! Bow low ! 
His eyes are stars that flash 
And yet are full of love. 
No earth-born eyes can meet 
The flashing of those stars ! 
Across the desert he came, 
Decked with gold and pearls. 
Where he rode it was light ; 
Behind him all was dark, 
Drought and the dread simoom. 
The Mighty One has come ! 

Peer Gynt 

Over the desert he came, 

Clothed in mortal shape. 

Kaaba is empty now ! 

Himself has told us so. 

Blow flute ! Sound drum ! 

The Prophet, the Prophet is come ! 

[The girls dance to soft music. 

PEER GYNT. I have read in a book, and the saying's true, 
That no man's a prophet in his own country. 
This life's a deal more to my liking 
Than that which I led as a Charlestown trader. 
There was something false about it all, 
Something foreign to me, and shady ; 
I never could feel myself at home, 
Or feel I had chosen the right profession. 
Qu allais-je faire dans cette galere, 
Grubbing about with business matters ? 
I can't understand it, the more I try 
It simply happened, and that is all. 
To climb up the world on money-bags 
Is just like building a house on sand. 
If you wear rings and a watch and so forth 
People will curtsy and bow to you, 
Take off their hats if you wear a breast-pin; 
But the rings and the pin are not yourself. 
Now a Prophet he has a definite status ; 
You know exactly where you're standing, 
If a man salutes you it's for yourself, 
And not because of your pounds and shillings. 
You are what you are, without pretence, 


Peer Gynt 

Owing nothing to chance or accident, 

Independent of patents or concessions. 

A Prophet yes, that's the life for me. 

And it happened so unexpectedly 

Simply from riding across the desert 

And coming upon these children of nature. 

The Prophet had come ; it was clear to them. 

But indeed it was not my design to deceive them 

An official reply from a Prophet is one thing, 

And a lie quite another; in any case, too, 

I can always retire from my present position. 

I'm in no way bound ; so it's not so bad. 

It's all, so to speak, like a private arrangement. 

I can go as I came ; my steed's standing ready ; 

In short, I am master of the situation. 
ANITRA [at the door of the tent]. Prophet and Master! 
PEER GYNT. What is it, my slave ? 

ANITRA. At the door of the tent stand sons of the desert, 

Craving to look on the face of the Prophet 

PEER GYNT. Stop ! You can tell them they must keep their distance ; 

I will receive their petitions at a distance. 

Tell them no man may set his foot within here ! 

Menfolk, my child, are but a set of scoundrels 

They are, in fact, a filthy lot of rascals. 

You, my Anitra, cannot well imagine 

With what barefaced impertinence they cheat one 

H'm ! I should say, how grievously they sin. Now, 

No more of that ! Come, dance for me, my children ! 

I would forget these thoughts that make me angry. 
THE GIRLS [as they dance]. The Prophet is good ! His heart is 


Peer Gynt 

For the sins that the sons of earth have committed. 

The Prophet is kind ! All praise to his kindness, 

Which leads such poor sinners to Paradise ! 

PEER GYNT [ivhose eyes have followed ANITRA through the dance]. Her 
legs flit about like nimble drumsticks ! 

She's really a tasty morsel, the baggage ! 

It's true her figure's pronounced in some ways 

Not quite in accord with the standards of beauty. 

But what is beauty ? A mere convention, 

A currency coined for a special purpose. 

And it's just these extravagances that tickle 

A palate that's sated with what is normal. 

In marriage there's always something wanting ; 

She's either too fat or else too scraggy, 

Annoyingly young or alarmingly ancient ; 

And if she's between the two she's insipid. 

Her feet, it is true, might well be cleaner, 

Also her arms especially that one. 

But, after all, that's nothing to matter ; 

One might rather call it a qualification. 

Anitra, come here ! 

ANITRA. Thy slave, my Master ! 

PEER GYNT. You attract me, child ! The Prophet is moved. 

If you don't believe me I'll prove it to you 

I'll make you a Houri in Paradise ! 
ANITRA. Impossible, Master ! 
PEER GYNT. You don't believe me ? 

As I am alive, I'm in real earnest ! 
ANITRA. But I've no soul ! 

PEER GYNT. Then you shall have one ! 

ANITRA. How shall I, Master? 



I 4 8 

a g 

ell be clc 
at one. 

ster ! 

Peer Gynt 

PEER GYNT. That's my affair. 

I shall look after your education. 

No soul ? It's true you are pretty stupid ; 

I've noticed that fact with some regret ; 

But there's room enough in you for a soul. 

Come here ! Let me measure your head. Oh, yes, 

There's plenty of room, as I knew there was. 

True enough, you'll never be anything much ; 

A great soul will be quite beyond you. 

But, pshaw ! it really doesn't matter ; 

You'll have enough to prevent your feeling 

Ashamed of it 

ANITRA. My Lord is kind 

PEER GYNT. You're hesitating ? What is the matter ? 

ANITRA. I'd rather have 

PEER GYNT. Speak out, at once ! 

ANITRA. I don't care so much about having a soul ; 

I'd rather have 


ANITRA [pointing to his turban]. That lovely opal! 
PEER GYNT [in raptures, as he hands her the jewel]. Anitra, you're one 
of Eve's true daughters ! 

Your charm attracts me for I'm a man ; 

And, as a noted writer puts it : 

" Das Ewig-weibliche ziehet uns an." 



A grove of palm-trees outside ANITRA'S tent. The moon is shining. 
PEER GYNT, with an Arabian lute in his hands, is sitting under a tree. 
His beard and hair have been trimmed, which makes him look con- 
siderably younger. 

PEER GYNT [plays and sings\. 

I locked the gate of Paradise 

And took away the key. 
My bark afar the north wind bore, 
While lovely women on the shore 

Were weeping there for me. 

Southward I sailed the salty depths 
Before the die was cast ; 

Where palms were waving proud and free 

Around an inlet of the sea 
I burned my ship at last. 

A desert-ship I mounted then 
A four-legged ship, I trow 

To bear me o'er the desert dark. 

I am a bird of passage ! Hark ! 
I'm twittering on a bough ! 

Anitra, thou art like the wine 
Of palm-trees, sparkling clear! 

Angora-goats'-milk cheese is good, 

But it's not half so sweet a food 
As thou, Anitra dear ! 

Peer Gynt 

[Slings the lute over his shoulder and approaches the tent. 

All is silent ! Now I wonder 

If she heard my little song ? 

Is she there behind the curtain, 

Peeping out with nothing on ? 

What's that sound ? It's like a bottle 

Some one is uncorking ! There ! 

There again I heard it ! Is it 

Sighs of love ? a lover's song ? 

No, it's clearly some one snoring. 

Lovely sound ! Anitra sleeps ! 

Nightingales, desist from singing ! 

You shall suffer if you dare 

With your silly cluck and gurgle 

Oh, well, after all sing on ! 

Every nightingale's a songster, 

Just as I am one myself; 

With their notes, like me, they capture 

Tender, delicate young hearts. 

Night's cool hours are meant for singing ; 

Singing is our common sphere ; 

Singing is the art of being 

Us Peer Gynt and nightingale. 

And to hear Anitra sleeping 

Is the topmost bliss of love; 

It's like lifting up a goblet 

To the lips, but drinking naught. 

Oh, but here she comes ! Well, really, 

After all, that is the best. 

ANITRA [at her tent door]. Did I hear my Master calling? 
PEER GYNT. Yes, my dear, the Prophet called. 


Peer Gynt 

I was wakened by a hubbub ; 

Cats were fighting all around 

ANITRA. Ah, they were not fighting, Master. 

It was something worse than that. 
PEER GYNT. What was it ? 
ANITRA. Oh, spare me ! 

PEER GYNT. Tell me ! 

ANITRA. I am blushing ! 
PEER GYNT [go ing close to her] . Do you mean 

The emotion I was feeling 

When you had my opal, dear ? 
ANITRA [horrified]. Don't compare yourself, great Master, 

To an old, disgusting cat ! 
PEER GYNT. Child considered just as lovers, 

There's perhaps not much to choose 

'Twixt a tom-cat and a Prophet. 
ANITRA. Honeyed jests, great Master, fall 

From your lips. 
PEER GYNT. My little friend, 

You, like other girls, pass judgment 

Solely by a great man's looks. 

I am really very playful 

Especially when tete-a-tete. 

My position makes it needful 

For me to put on a mask 

Of most serious behaviour ; 

I'm constrained by daily duties, 

And the nature of the business 

Relative to my great office, 

To assume a weighty manner, 

And at times may seem to others 


Peer Gynt 

Too prophetically abrupt; 

But 'tis all upon the surface. 

Away with all that bosh ! In private 

I am Peer that's who I am. 

Come, now, I will drop the Prophet ; 

You shall know my very self! 

[Sits down under a tree and draws ANITRA closer to him, 

Come, Anitra, let us dally 

Underneath this waving palm ! 

You shall smile and I shall whisper 

Nothings in your ear ; and then 

We'll reverse the parts we're playing, 

Your sweet lips shall whisper love 

In my ear while I sit smiling ! 
ANITRA [lying at his feet]. All you say is sweet as music, 

Though I don't quite understand. 

Tell me, Master, can your daughter 

Get a soul by listening ? 
PEER GYNT. Presently you shall be dowered 

With that light of life a soul; 

When upon the rosy portals 

Of the dawn we see in gold 

" I am daybreak " clearly written 

Then it will be time enough 

To begin your education. 

But for me to play schoolmaster, 

And to waste this lovely night 

Trying to collect together 

Weatherbeaten bits of lore, 

Would be stupid altogether, 

Even if I wanted to. 


Peer Gynt 

And, besides, considered rightly, 

Souls are not the chiefest things 

In our lives ; it's hearts that matter. 
ANITRA. Speak on, Master ! When you speak 

It's like opals flashing fire. 
PEER GYNT. Too much cleverness is folly ; 

And the fruit of cowardice, 

Pushed too far, is cruelty. 

Truth, if it's exaggerated, 

Is no more than wisdom's self 

Turned hind-foremost. Yes, my child, 

You may take my word for it, 

There are people in the world 

Gorged with soul but dull of vision. 

I once knew a chap like that ; 

He seemed brighter than his fellows ; 

Yet he let resounding phrases 

Which he did not understand 

Quite mislead him from his business. 

Look around this fair oasis, 

At the desert ; if my turban 

I took off and fluttered gently 

Once or twice the mighty ocean 

At my bidding would invade it, 

Filling up its every corner. 

But I'd be a silly cuckoo 

If I set about creating 

Seas and continents. Do you know, 

My child, what life is ? 
ANITRA. No, instruct me. 

PEER GYNT. Life means passing safe and dry-shod 


Peer Gynt 

Down the rushing stream of time. 
Manly strength is what is needed 
To be what I am, my dear. 
Age makes eagles lose their feathers, 
Makes old fogies' footsteps fail, 
Sets an old crone's teeth decaying, 
Gives an old man withered hands 
And they all get withered souls. 
Give me youth ! I mean as Sultan, 
Ardent and vigorous, to rule- 
Not the realms of Gyntiana 
With their palm-trees and their vines 
But the realm of fresh young beauty 
That lies in a maiden's thoughts. 

So you see, my child, the reason 
Why I graciously was pleased 
To bestow my love upon you ; 
Why I chose your little heart, 
So to speak, to be the empire 
That shall be my caliphate. 
None but I shall know your longings ; 
In the empire of my love 
I must reign supreme, unquestioned ! 
For you must be mine alone. 
I shall be your gentle gaoler, 
Binding you with gold and gems. 
If we part, life will be empty 
Or, at any rate, for you ! 
Not a fibre of your being, 
Not an instinct of your will, 
But shall know me as their master 


Peer Gynt 

You shall be so filled with me. 
And your raven locks your beauty 
All in you that can allure 
These shall be a pleasant garden 
For your Sultan's foot to tread. 

And that's why it's really lucky 
You've an empty little head. 
Souls are apt to make their owners 
Too absorbed about themselves. 
And while we're upon the topic 
If you like I'll seal the pact 
By bestowing on your ankle 
This fine bangle. That, I think, 
Fairly meets the situation. 
Me instead of soul you'll have ; 

Otherwise, the status quo. [ANITRA snores. 

What ? Is she sleeping ? Have my words 
Fallen on unheeding ears ? 
No ; it shows the power lying 
In my words that, like a stream, 
They transport her gently with them 
To the land of dreams. [Gets up and puts some jewels in her lap. 

Anitra ! 

Here are jewels ! Here are more ! 
Sleep, Anitra ! Dream of Peer ! 
Sleep, for in your sleep you've set 
A crown upon your Emperor's head ! 
Peer Gynt has won a victory 
Of personality to-night. 



A caravan route. The oasis is visible in the remote background. PEER 
GYNT, on his white horse, is galloping over the desert, holding ANITRA 
before him on the pommel of his saddle. 

ANITRA. Let go ! I'll bite you ! 

PEER GYNT. You little rogue ! 

ANITRA. What do you want to do ? 

PEER GYNT. To play 

At dove and falcon ! To carry you off, 

And do all sorts of reckless things ! 
ANITRA. For shame ! An old Prophet, too ! 
PEER GYNT. Oh, bosh ! 

The Prophet is not old, you goose ! 

Do you think this looks as if he were old ? 
ANITRA. Let me go ! I want to go home ! 
PEER GYNT. You flirt! 

Home ! To father-in-law ! That's good ! 

We birds that have flown out of our cage 

Dare not be seen by him again. 

Besides, my child, no one should stay 

Too long in the same place ; he's apt 

To lose as much in estimation 

As he can gain by making friends ; 

And this is specially the case 

When he's a Prophet, or the like. 

His should be flying visits seen 

As snatches of a song are heard. 

L 159 

Peer Gynt 

It was time that my visit should come to an end ; 

These sons of the desert are shifty creatures- 
Incense and gifts have both been lacking 

For some days. 

ANITRA. Yes, but are you a Prophet? 

PEER GYNT. I am your Emperor ! 

[Tries to kiss her, but she draws back. 
Oh, come! 

Don't be a proud little birdie, now ! 
ANITRA. Give me the ring that's on your finger. 
PEER GYNT. Take the lot if you wish, dear! 
ANITRA. Your words are like life-giving music ! 
PEER GYNT. What happiness 'tis to be loved like this ! 

Let me dismount ! I will lead the horse 

And be your slave ! [Hands her the whip and dismounts. 

See now, my pretty, 

My beautiful rose here am I now, 

And here I'll tread the sands until 

I get a sunstroke and have to stop. 

I am young, Anitra ! Remember that ! 

You mustn't look at my deeds too closely ; 

Jokes and fun are what youth is known by ! 

And, if you were not quite so stupid, 

My graceful flower, you'd understand 

That, since your lover is full of fun, 

Ergo he's young ! 
ANITRA. Yes, you are young. 

Have you any more rings ? 
PEER GYNT. Of course I'm young ! 

Look, I am bounding like a deer ! 

If there was any green-stuff handy 

1 60 

Peer Gynt 

I'd make myself a wreath ! Aha ! 

Of course I'm young ! Just see me dance ! [Dances and sings. 

I am a happy little cock ! 
Peck me, my little pullet ! 
Houp-la ! Just see me foot it ! 
I am a happy little cock ! 

ANITRA. You're sweating, my Prophet ; I'm afraid you will melt. 

Let me carry that bag that weighs down on your belt. 
PEER GYNT. What tender concern ! You shall carry the purse ; 
Hearts that are loving have no need of gold ! 

[Dances and sings again. 
He is a madcap, your little Peer ! 
He doesn't know what he is doing ! 
And doesn't care if he keeps going ! 
He is a madcap, your little Peer ! 

ANITRA. How joyful 'tis to see the Prophet dancing! 

PEER GYNT. Oh, drop that * Prophet ' nonsense ! Let's put on 

Each other's clothes ! Come on ! You take yours off! 
ANITRA. Your caftan is too long, your belt too roomy, 

Your stockings much too small. 
PEER GYNT. Eh bien ! x Instead, 

Inflict some pain upon me ; for 'tis sweet 

For loving hearts to suffer for their love ! 

And, when we come to where my castle stands 

ANITRA. Your Paradise ? Have we got far to ride ? 

PEER GYNT. A thousand miles or so ! 

ANITRA. Oh, what a way ! 

PEER GYNT. Then you shall have the soul I promised you 

1 So in the original. 


Peer Gynt 

ANITRA. No, thanks ; I think I'll do without the soul. 

But you were asking for some pain 

PEER GYNT. Ah, yes ! 

Something severe but brief a passing pang ! 
ANITRA. Anitra must obey the Prophet ! So 
Farewell ! 

[Hits him smartly over the fingers with the whip, and gallops back 

over the desert at full speed. 

PEER GYNT [after standing for a long time as if thunderstruck]. Well, 
lam ! 



The same as the preceding, an hour later. PEER GYNT is taking off his 

Turkish dress bit by bit, deliberately and thoughtfully. When he has 

finished he takes a travelling-cap out of his coat pocket, puts it on, 

and stands once more in European dress. He flings the turban far 

away from him. 

PEER GYNT. There lies the Turk, and here stand I ! 
A pagan existence is no good at all. 
It's lucky that I can throw it away 
With the clothes, and that it's not bred in the bone. 
Quallais-jefaire dans cette galere? 
It's certainly best to live as a Christian, 
Avoid the temptation of sumptuous garments, 
Fashion your life by what's lawful and moral ; 
In fact, be yourself and deserve at the last 
A funeral oration and wreaths on your coffin. 

[Takes a few steps. 
The baggage ! Only a little more 
And I believe she'd have turned my head. 
But I'll be hanged if I understand 
What it was in her that so upset me. 
I am well out of it ! If the joke 
Had been pursued a little farther 
It would have made me ridiculous. 
I have erred, no doubt ; but it's comforting 
To feel that my erring was the result 
Of the position I had assumed; 


Peer Gynt 

It was not I, myself, that erred. 
It was, as a fact, the prophetic life- 
Devoid of any savouring salt 
Of active work that caused in me 
These lapses into want of taste. 
It's a sorry business being a Prophet ! 
In the course of your duties you're apt to get heedless. 
You're sober and dignified ; all of a sudden 
You find you're nothing of the sort. 
I certainly gave proof of it 
By paying homage to that goose, 

Still, all the same [Bursts out laughing. 

Just think of it! 

Spending the time in wanton dancing ! 
Trying to stem the stream of life 
By fooling like that ! sweet music, 
Caresses, sighs and in the end 
Be plucked like any silly hen ! 
Prophetically wild behaviour ! 
Plucked ! To my shame, I've been plucked badly ! 
Still, I've a little left in hand- 
Some in America, and some 
Safe in my pocket ; so I'm not 
Quite on the rocks. And, after all, 
A moderate amount of wealth 
Is best. I am no longer tied 
By horses, coachmen, and the like ; 
I've neither carriages nor luggage 
To give me trouble. In a word, 
I'm master of the situation. 
Which way shall I choose? Many are open. 


Peer Gynt 

It's in such choice that wisdom counts. 

My business life is a finished chapter ; 

My love affairs, discarded garments ; 

And I have no mind to retrace my steps. 

" Forward or back it's just as far; 

Out or in, it's just as narrow " 

As I think it says in some clever book. 

I must find some new, some ennobling task ; 

An object that's worth my pains and money. 

Suppose I wrote, without concealment, 

The story of my life a book 

To serve as a guide and an example 

To others after me ? Or, wait ! 

I've lots of time at my command 

Suppose I become a travelling scholar, 

Making a study of bygone ages ? 

That, I believe, is the thing for me ! 

I'd always a fancy for history, 

And lately I've improved my knowledge. 

I'll trace the story of mankind ! 

Float like a feather upon the stream 

Of history ; and live again, 

As in a dream, the days of old ; 

See the fierce fights the heroes waged 

But from a vantage-point that's safe, 

That of an onlooker ; see how 

Thinkers were slaughtered, martyrs bled; 

How kingdoms rose and kingdoms fell ; 

Watch epochs of world-history 

Grow from their birth ; and, in a word, 

Skim all the cream of history. 


Peer Gynt 

I must try and get hold of a book of Becker's, 1 

And go chronologically about it. 

It's true that my previous knowledge is sketchy, 

And history's rather an intricate matter 

But what is the odds ! It frequently happens 

That very unusual methods of starting 

Lead to the most original outcome. 

To see one's goal and drive towards it, 

Steeling one's heart, is most uplifting! [With restrained emotion. 

Breaking through every bond that hinders, 

Sundering ties of home and friendship, 

Bidding adieu to love's soft promptings, 

To solve the mystery of truth ! [ Wipes a tear from his eye. 

That is the test of a real inquirer ! 

It makes me happy beyond measure 

To feel I have solved the great enigma 

Of my destiny. I've only, now, 

To hold my course through thick and thin ! 

I think I may be well forgiven 

If I feel proud, and call Peer Gynt 

A Man, and Manhood's Emperor ! 

The Past shall be a lock to which 

I have the key ; I will desert 

The sordid paths of modern life. 

The Present is not worth a shoe-lace. 

The ways of men are empty, faithless ; 

Their minds are dull, their deeds are futile 

[Shrugs his shoulders. 
And women well, their name is frailty ! [Moves on. 

1 Becker's Weltgeschichte, which had been translated into Danish. 



Outside a hut in a forest in the far north of Norway. It is a summer's day. 
The door, which stands open, is furnished with a massive wooden bolt; 
above the door a pair of reindeer horns is fixed. A herd of goats are 
feeding by the wall. SOLVEIG, now a fair and handsome middle- 
aged woman, is sitting spinning in the sunshine. 

SOLVEIG [looks down the path and sings]. It may not be till winter's 


And spring and summer the whole long year ; 
But I know that you will come at last, 
And I shall wait, for I promised you, dear. 

[Calls to her goats, then resumes her spinning and singing. 
God guard you, dear, where'er you be ! 
If in Heaven, God have you in His care ! 
I shall wait till you come back to me ; 
If you're waiting above I shall meet you there ! 



In Egypt, at the foot of the statue ofMemnon, at dawn. PEER GYNT comes 
walking along, stops, and looks around him. 

PEER GYNT. I think that this place will do for a start. 
Now, for a change, I'm an Egyptian ; 
But Egyptian always upon the basis 
Of the Gyntian Self. I'll wander later_ 
Into Assyria. I'll stop short 
Of going back to the Creation, 
For that would only lead to danger. 
I'll skirt the edges of Bible history. 
No doubt I'll discover certain traces 
That will confirm it ; but to go 
Minutely into it is not 

According to my plan of action. [Sits down on a stone. 

I'll rest awhile and wait with patience 
Until I've heard the Statue singing 
Its customary morning song; 
And, after I have had my breakfast, 
I'll climb the Pyramid, and then, 
If I have time, I'll look inside it. 
Then to the Red Sea, where perhaps 
I shall discover King Potiphar's grave. 
Then I will be an Asiatic ; 
In Babylon I'll seek the famous 
Hanging Gardens and Concubines 
The fairest products, that's to say, 
Of civilization. Then a leap, 


Peer Gynt 

And I'll be at the walls of Troy ; 
And thence the sea-route is direct 
To beautiful old Athens. There 
I shall examine, stone by stone, 
The pass Leonidas defended ; 
I'll make myself familiar 
With all the best philosophies ; 
Find out the gaol where Socrates 

Laid down his life as sacrifice 

But, stop a minute ! I forgot 

Greece is at war, so for the present 

I must put Hellenism aside. [Looks at his watch. 

What a ridiculous time the sun 

Takes in rising ! My time's precious. 

Well, then, from Troy that's where I'd got to 

[Gets up and listens. 

I wonder what that curious murmur ? [The sun rises. 


From the demi-god's ashes x arise new-born 

Singing birds. 
Zeus, the all-knowing, 
Shaped them for conflict. 

Owl of Wisdom, 
Where sleep my birds ? 
You must die if you read not 
The Riddle of the Song! 

1 At Memnon's death Jove changed the hero's companions into birds that sang wildly 
and fought fiercely with each other. Ibsen's satire here is said to be directed against the 
University professors of Norway, the Owl of Wisdom being the crest of the University. 
He regarded the professorial wisdom as a dead thing, insomuch as it merely concerned itself 
with the past and took no proper part in the conflict for the future of Norway. The Statue 
here asks Peer, as the representative of the Norwegian people, where the fighting spirit that 
should have arisen from the ashes of the past is sleeping. 


at his watch. 

Jd got to - 

[Gets up and listens. 
sun rises. 

e all-knowing, 


Peer Gynt 

PEER GYNT. I really do believe I heard 
Sounds from the Statue ! That would be 
The music of the past. I heard 
The rise and fall of the Statue's voice. 
I'll note that down for consideration 
At experts' hands. [Makes a note in his pocket-book. 

' The Statue sang. 

I heard the sounds quite plainly, but 
Could not completely understand 
The words. I have, of course, no doubt 
The whole thing was hallucination. 
Otherwise, I have not observed 
Anything of importance so far." [He moves on. 



Near the village of Gizeh, by the great Sphinx carved out of the rock. 
In the distance are seen the spires and minarets of Cairo. PEER GYNT 
arrives; he examines the Sphinx carefully, sometimes through his 
eyeglass, sometimes through the hollow of his hand. 

PEER GYNT. Now where in the world have I met before 
Something I only half remember 
That this ugly thing reminds me of? 
For met it I have either north or south. 
Was it a man ? And, in that case, who ? 
The Memnon Statue reminded me 
Of the Troll King of our fairy tales, 
Sitting like that, all stiff and rigid, 
Resting his rump on a piece of rock ; 
But this remarkable mongrel here, 
This monster, half lion and half woman 
Have I known it, too, in a fairy tale ? 
Or have I some real recollection of it? 
A fairy tale ? No, I know the chap ! 
It's the Boyg, if you please, whose skull I cracked 
I mean to say that I dreamed I did, 

For I was lying ill of a fever. [Goes nearer to the Sphinx. 

The selfsame eyes, the selfsame lips ! 
Not quite so sluggish a bit more cunning 
But in the main points just the same. 
Well, Boyg, old fellow, you're like a lion, 
Seen from behind and in the daylight ! 


Peer Gynt 

Are you still full of riddles? We'll try, and see; 

We'll see if you answer as you did before. [Calls to the Sphinx. 

Hi, Boyg! Who are you? 

VOICE [from behind the Sphinx]. Ach, Sfinx, wer hist du? 
PEER GYNT. What's that ? An echo in German ? Astounding ! 
VOICE. Wer hist du? 
PEER GYNT. It's got a perfect accent ! 

The observation's new, and my own. [Makes a note in his hook. 

" Echo in German with Berlin accent." 

[BEGRIFFENFELDT comes from behind the Sphinx. 
PEER GYNT. Oh it was he that was talking. [Makes a further note. 

" Came later to another conclusion." 

BEGRIFFENFELDT [with signs of great excitement}. Excuse me, Sir ! 

A vital question ! 

What was it brought you here to-day ? 
PEER GYNT. A visit. I'm greeting a friend of my youth. 

PEER GYNT. Yes, I knew him in days gone by. 

BEGRIFFENFELDT. Splendid ! And after the night I've spent ! 

My forehead is throbbing as if it would burst ! 

You know him, Sir? Then speak! What is he? 

Can you tell me that? 
PEER GYNT. What is he? Yes, 

I can tell you that. He is himself. 
BEGRIFFENFELDT [with a start]. Ha! Like a flash I see the answer 

To life's enigma ! Is it certain 

That he's himself? 

PEER GYNT. Yes; at least, he said so. 

BEGRIFFENFELDT. Himself! The great awakening's come ! 

Your name, Sir ? [ Takes off his hat. 


Peer Gynt 

PEER GYNT. I am called Peer Gynt. 

BEGRIFFENFELDT [with an air of quiet amazement}. Peer Gynt! Alle- 
gorical ! What one expected. 

Peer Gynt ? That means : the Great Unknown 

The Messiah that was announced to me 

PEER GYNT. No really ? And you came here to find him ? 
BEGRIFFENFELDT. Peer Gynt ! Profound ! Enigmatic ! Incisive ! 

Each word is full of deepest teaching ! 

What are you ? 
PEER GYNT [modestly]. I have always tried 

To be myself. And, for the rest, 

My passport 

BEGRIFFENFELDT. Enigmatic too ! 

All an enigma ! [Grasps him by the hand. 

Come to Cairo ! 

Come ! I have found the Emperor 

Of Exegesis! 

PEER GYNT. Emperor? 

PEER GYNT. Am I really known ? 

BEGRIFFENFELDT [dragging him away with him]. The Emperor 

Of Exegesis based on Self! 

M 175 


In a lunatic asylum at Cairo. A big courtyard surrounded by high walls 
and buildings with barred windows. Iron cages on the ground level. 
Three of the KEEPERS are in the courtyard. A fourth comes in. 

FOURTH KEEPER. I say, Schafmann where's the Director ? 
ANOTHER KEEPER. He went out this morning, long before dawn. 
FOURTH KEEPER. I'm afraid something's happened that has upset 

Because in the night 

ANOTHER. Hush ! Here he comes ! 

[BEGRIFFENFELDT shows PEER GYNT in, locks the gate, and puts 
the key in his pocket. 

PEER GYNT [aside] . He is a remarkably learned man ; 
Almost all that he says is beyond understanding. [Looks round him. 
So this, then, is your Savants' Club ? 

BEGRIFFENFELDT. Yes, here you'll find them, bag and baggage 
The coterie of seventy 
Professors of Exegesis. Lately 

A hundred and three new ones joined them. [Calls to the KEEPERS. 
Mikkel, Schlingelberg, Schafmann, Fuchs 
Into the cages with you ! Quick ! 

BEGRIFFENFELDT. Yes who else ? Get on ! get on ! 
As the world's topsy-turvy, we 
Must follow suit ! [Shuts them up in the cage. 

The mighty Peer 
Has come to us to-day ; so you 


Peer Gynt 

Can join the others. I will say 

No more. [Locks the cage and throws the key into a well. 

PEER GYNT. But why, my dear Director ? 

BEGRIFFENFELDT. Don't call me that ! I was Director 

Until Sir, can you keep a secret? 

I must unburden myself 

PEER GYNT. What is it? 

BEGRIFFENFELDT. Promise me that you will not tremble. 
PEER GYNT. I will try not to. 

BEGRIFFENFELDT [takes him into a corner and whispers}. Absolute 

Expired at eleven o'clock last night ! 
PEER GYNT. God help us ! 
BEGRIFFENFELDT. Yes, it's a great disaster. 

In my position, too, you see, 

It's doubly disagreeable ; 

Because this place, until it happened, 

Was known as a lunatic asylum. 
PEER GYNT. A lunatic asylum ! 

Not now, you understand ! 
PEER GYNT [aside, growing pale]. I see 

Exactly how it is ; this fellow 

Is mad and not a soul suspects it. [Moves away. 

BEGRIFFENFELDT [following him] . I hope you have really understood 

To say it's dead is not accurate. 

It has left itself got out of its skin, 

Like my friend Baron Munchausen's fox. 1 

1 In one of Baron Munchausen's tales he relates an encounter with a fox in which he 
thrust his hand down the fox's throat and onward till he felt its tail ; having grasped that, he 
pulled till he turned the fox inside out. 


Peer Gynt 

PEER GYNT [trying to get away]. Excuse me 

BEGRIFFENFELDT [holding on to him]. No, it was like an eel, 

Not a fox. A nail right through its eye 

And there it was, squirming on the wall 

PEER GYNT. How on earth am I to save myself? 
BEGRIFFENFELDT. Just one slit round the neck and pop ! 

Out of its pelt it came! 
PEER GYNT. Quite mad ! 

BEGRIFFENFELDT. And now the fact is evident 

That this same exit-from-itself 

Entails a revolution 

In all the world. All persons who 

Up to that time were known as mad 

At eleven o'clock last night became 

Normal ; this, in conformity 

With Reason in its newest phase. 

And, if you consider the matter further, 

It's clear that from the selfsame hour 

Our so-called wise men all went mad. 

PEER GYNT. Speaking of time, my time is precious 

BEGRIFFENFELDT. Your time? You've jogged my memory! 

[Opens a door and calls out. 

Come out ! The appointed time has come ! 

Reason is dead. Long live Peer Gynt ! 

PEER GYNT. No, my dear friend ! 

[The mad folk come one after another into the courtyard. 
BEGRIFFENFELDT. Good morning to you ! 

Come out and greet the dawn of freedom ! 

Your Emperor's here ! 
PEER GYNT. Their Emperor ? 



Peer Gynt 

PEER GYNT. It's too great an honour- 
Far more than 

BEGRIFFENFELDT. No false modesty 

At such a time as this ! 
PEER GYNT. At least 

Give me some respite ! I'm not fit 

For such a task ; I'm quite dumbfounded ! 
BEGRIFFENFELDT. The man who guessed the Sphinx's riddle ! 

Who is himself! 
PEER GYNT. That's just my trouble. 

I am myself in every way ; 

But here, so far as I can see, 

Every one gets outside themselves. 
BEGRIFFENFELDT. Outside themselves ? Oh, no, you're wrong. 

It's here that men are most themselves 

Themselves and nothing but themselves 

Sailing with outspread sails of self. 

Each shuts himself in a cask of self, 

The cask stopped with a bung of self 

And seasoned in a well of self. 

None has a tear for others' woes 

Or cares what any other thinks. 

We are ourselves in thought and voice 

Ourselves up to the very limit ; 

And, consequently, if we want 

An Emperor it's very clear 

That you're the man. 

PEER GYNT. I wish to goodness ! 

BEGRIFFENFELDT. Don't be downhearted ; everything 

That's new at first seems strange to one. 

" One's self "well, as a specimen, 

1 80 

Peer Gynt 

I'll choose the first that comes to hand. 

[To a gloomy figure that is passing. 
Good morning, Huhu ! Still, my lad, 
Looking the picture of misery ? 

HUHU [a Language-Reformer 1 from Malabar}. What can I do, when 

After generation dies 

Lacking an interpreter? [To PEER GYNT. 

You're a stranger ; will you listen ? 
PEER GYNT [bowing]. By all means. 
HUHU. Then pay attention. 

Away in the East, like a bridal crown, 

Lie the shores of Malabar. 

Portuguese and Hollanders 

Try to civilize the place, 

Where there still survive a lot 

Of original Malabari. 

These good folk have muddled up 

Their language, and now rule supreme 

In that land. But, long ago, 

That same countryside was ruled 

By Orang-outangs. The woods 

Were all theirs ; and they could fight, 

Growl, and snarl to hearts' content 

Live, in fact, as Nature made them ; 

They could screech without permission, 

And were lords of all the country. 

Then there came this horde of strangers 

And disturbed the primal language 

1 The satire in this episode is directed against the Maalstrtivere, as a group of national 
language-reformers were called, whose aim was to rid the Norwegian language of its Danish 
taint and get back to the old Norse tongue. 


Peer Gynt 

That was spoken in the forests. 
Now four hundred years have passed 
That means many generations 
And so long a time as that, 
As one knows, can easily 
Stamp out aborigines. 
The forest cries have long been dumb, 
Not a growl is ever heard ; 
If we want to speak our minds 
We must have recourse to words. 
It applies to all alike 
Portuguese and Hollanders, 
Hybrid races, Malabari 
All are equally affected. 
I have tried my best to fight 
For our real forest-tongue ; 
Tried to bring its corpse to life ; 
Upheld people's right to screech, 
Screeched myself, and pointed out 
The necessity of screeching 
In our folk-songs. But my efforts 
Met with no result whatever. 
Now I think you understand 
What my grievance is. I thank you 
For your courtesy in listening. 
If you think you can advise me 
What to do, I beg you'll tell me ! 

PEER GYNT [aside}. They say that when you are in Rome 
You should do as the Romans do. [Aloud. 

My friend, if I remember rightly, 
There are forests in Morocco 


Peer Gynt 

Where there are Orang-outangs 

That have neither songs nor teacher ; 

And their language much resembles 

That of Malabar ; if you 

Were, like many other statesmen, 

To expatriate yourself 

For the good of these same people, 

It would be a notable action 

And a fine example also. 
HUHU. Let me thank you, sir, for listening ; 

I will follow your advice. [With an impressive gesture. 

In the East they flout their singer ! 

The West has its Orang-outangs ! [Goes out. 

BEGRIFFENFELDT. Now, surely you'll say that he's himself! 

He's full of himself and nothing else ; 

Himself in every word he says 

Himself when he's beside himself. 

Come here ! I want to show you another, 

Who's been no less conformable 

To Reason since last night's occurrence. 

[To a FELLAH who is carrying about a mummy on his hack. 

King Apis, how goes it, my noble sir ? 
FELLAH [fiercely, to PEER GYNT]. Am I King Apis? 
PEER GYNT [getting behind BEGRIFFENFELDT]. I'm afraid 

I'm not quite qualified to say ; 

But I should think, if I may judge 

From what your voice suggests to me 

FELLAH. Now you are lying too ! 

Must kindly deign to let us have 

An explanation. 


Peer Gynt 

FELLAH. Well, I will. [Turns to PEER GYNT. 

You see this man I'm carrying ? 
King Apis was his name. 
They call him now a mummy ; 
And, what is more, he's dead. 

He built up all the Pyramids, 
And carved the mighty Sphinx, 
And fought so the Director says 
With Turks on every side. 

And therefore the Egyptians 
Worshipped him as a God, 
And set up in their temples 
His statue as a bull. 

But I am that King Apis 
It's just as clear as day; 
If you don't understand it, 
I'll make you very soon. 

King Apis was out a-hunting 
And got down from his horse 
And stepped aside for a moment 
In my grandfather's field. 

The soil King Apis fertilized 
Has nourished me with corn ; 
And, if more proof is needed, 
I have invisible horns. 

Then don't you think it's damnable 
That I can't get my due ? 
By my birth I am King Apis, 
But only a Fellah here. 

If you think you can advise me, 
Tell me, without delay, 


Peer Gynt 

What I'm to do to make myself 

Like Apis, the great king. 
PEER GYNT. Your Highness must build Pyramids, 

And carve a mighty Sphinx, 

And fight as the Director says 

With Turks on every side. 
FELLAH. Yes, that's a likely story ! 

A Fellah ! A hungry louse ! 

It's all I can do to keep my hut 

Clear of the rats and mice. 
Come, think of something better, 

To make me great and safe, 

And also make me look like 

King Apis that's on my back. 
PEER GYNT. Suppose your Highness hanged yourself, 

And then, deep in the ground, 

Within a coffin's sheltering walls 

Behaved like one that's dead 

FELLAH. I'll do it ! Let me have a rope ! 

To the gallows with my head ! 

I'll not be quite like him at first, 

But time will alter that. 

[Goes away and makes preparations to hang himself. 
BEGRIFFENFELDT. A great personality that, my friend 

A man with method 

PEER GYNT. Yes, so I see. 

But he really is hanging himself! God help us ! 

I feel quite sick and my brain is turning ! 
BEGRIFFENFELDT. A transitional stage ; it won't last long. 

PEER GYNT. Transition? To what? I really must go 

BEGRIFFENFELDT [holding him back] . Are you mad ? 

Peer Gynt 

PEER GYNT. Not yet ! Mad ? God forbid ! 

[Amidst an uproar HUSSEIN, a Minister of State, pushes his way 

through the other lunatics. 
HUSSEIN. They tell me an Emperor's come to-day. [To PEER GYNT. 

Is it you ? 

PEER GYNT [desperately]. They've settled that it is ! 
HUSSEIN. Good ! Here are papers that need an answer. 
PEER GYNT [tearing his hair}. Aha ! Go on ! The more the merrier ! 
HUSSEIN. Perhaps you will honour me with a dip? [Bows low. 

I am a pen. 
PEER GYNT [bowing still lower]. And I am merely 

A trumpery imperial parchment. 
HUSSEIN. My history, Sir, is briefly this : 

They think me a sand-box, and not a pen. 
PEER GYNT. And mine, Sir Pen, succinctly told : 

I'm a paper that's never been written on. 
HUSSEIN. They never will understand what I'm meant for ; 

They all want to use me to sprinkle sand ! 
PEER GYNT. I was a book with silver clasps 

When I belonged to a woman once. 

Madness or wisdom is merely a misprint. 
HUSSEIN. But, think how wretched to be a pen 

That never has tasted the edge of a knife ! 
PEER GYNT [leaping into the air]. Think what it is to be a reindeer 

That's always jumping down from a height 

And never reaching solid ground ! 
HUSSEIN. A knife ! I am blunt; I need repairing ! 

The world will perish if I'm not mended ! 
PEER GYNT. That would be sad when, like all that He made, 

Our Heavenly Father admired it so much. 
BEGRIFFENFELDT. Here's a knife ! 


Peer Gynt 

HUSSEIN [grasping it]. Ah, how I shall lick up the ink! 

How lovely to cut one's self! [Cuts his throat. 

BEGRIFFENFELDT [moving to one side]. Don't splash me! 
PEER GYNT [with growing terror]. Hold him! 
HUSSEIN. Yes, hold me ! That's the word ! 

Hold ! Hold the Pen ! Is the paper there ? [Falls. 

I'm worn out. A postscript don't forget it : 

He was a pen in the hands of others. 
PEER GYNT. What shall I ? What am I ? Oh, Thou keep hold ! 

I am what Thou wilt a Turk, a Sinner, 

A Troll ; only help me ! Something has burst 

Within me ! [Shrieks. 

I cannot remember Thy name ! 

Help me, Thou Guardian of all madmen ! 

[Sinks down in a swoon. BEGRIFFENFELDT, holding a straw crown 

in his hand, leaps on to PEER GYNT and sits astride of him. 
BEGRIFFENFELDT. See how he sits enthroned in the mud ! 

He's out of himself! Let us crown him now ! 
[Puts the crown on PEER GYNT'S head, and shouts 

Long live the Emperor of Self! 
SCHAFMANN [in the cage]. Es lebe hoch der grosse Peer I 




On board a ship in the North Sea off the coast of Norway. Sunset and a 
threatening sky. PEER GYNT, now a vigorous old man with grey hair 
and beard, is on the poop. His clothes, which are somewhat the worse 
for wear, are half sailor-like ; he wears a pilot-jacket and sea-boots. 
He looks weather-beaten, and his expression has hardened. The 
CAPTAIN is at the wheel with the HELMSMAN. The crew is forward. 
PEER GYNT is leaning his arms on the gunwale and gazing at the land. 

PEER GYNT. There's Hallingskarven in winter dress ; 

He shows up well in the evening light. 

And there's his brother Joklen behind, 

Still wearing his ice-green glacier cap ; 

And, like a lady dressed in white, 

Lies Folgefond behind them both. 

Don't try any follies, my ancient friends ! 

Stay where you are you are made of stone. 
CAPTAIN [calling forward]. Two men to the wheel and hoist the 


PEER GYNT. It's blowing. 

CAPTAIN. Aye, we'll have a storm. 

PEER GYNT. Can one see Ronde from the sea? 
CAPTAIN. No it lies hidden behind Faanen. 
PEER GYNT. Or Blaaho ? 
CAPTAIN. No ; but, from aloft, 

Galdhopiggen when the weather's clear. 
PEER GYNT. Which way's Harteigen? 
CAPTAIN [pointing]. Over there. 

N 191 

Peer Gynt 

PEER GYNT. Of course. 

CAPTAIN. You seem to know the country. 

PEER GYNT. I passed this way when I sailed from home ; 

And early impressions, as they say, 

Last longest. [Spits over the side, and continues gazing at the coast. 
It is over there 

Where the hillside glens are blue, 

In the dark and narrow valleys, 

And along the open fjords 

That is where the people live. [Looks at the CAPTAIN. 

Not many houses on this coast. 
CAPTAIN. No, they are few and far between. 
PEER GYNT. Shall we be in by morning ? 

I hope so, if the night is not 

Too bad. 

PEER GYNT. It's gathering in the west. 
CAPTAIN. It is. 
PEER GYNT. Oh, by the way, look here 

Remind me, when we're settling up, 

That I intend to make a present 

To the crew 

CAPTAIN. You're very good. 

PEER GYNT. It will only be a small one. 

I made money, but I've lost it ; 

Fate and I have fallen out. 

You know what I have got on board ; 

Well, that's the lot. The rest of it 

Has taken wings and flown away. 
CAPTAIN. Oh, what you've got is quite enough 

To win respect from folk at home. 


Peer Gynt 

PEER GYNT. I have no folk. There's no one waiting 

For this rich, ugly uncle. Well, 

I shall be spared some fuss at landing. 
CAPTAIN. The storm is brewing. 
PEER GYNT. Now remember, 

If any of you need it badly 

I'm not close-fisted with my money. 
CAPTAIN. That's kind. They're mostly badly off; 

They all have wives and families 

Can scarcely live upon their pay 

And if your kindness sends them home 

With something extra in their pockets 

To-morrow's home-coming will never 

Be forgotten. 
PEER GYNT. What's all that? 

Do you say they've wives and children ? 

Married ? 
CAPTAIN. Yes, married all the lot. 

The poorest of them all's the cook ; 

His house is never free from hunger. 
PEER GYNT. Married ? And some one waiting there 

To greet them when they come ? Is that it ? 
CAPTAIN. Of course, like all poor folk. 
PEER GYNT Supposing 

It's evening when they come what then ? 
CAPTAIN. Then I expect that something tasty 

Will have been got for the occasion 

PEER GYNT. A lamp upon the table ? 

And maybe two ; a dram to drink 

PEER GYNT. They'll sit at ease, in warmth and comfort, 


Peer Gynt 

With children round them? And such hubbub 

In the room that no one hears 

Half the other says to them, 

Just because they are so happy ? 
CAPTAIN. Very likely ; and that's why 

It's so kind of you to promise 

They shall have a little present. 

PEER GYNT [banging his fist on the gunwale]. No, I'm damned if they 
shall have it ! 

Do you think me such a fool 

As to fork out for the pleasure 

Of helping other people's children ? 

I've worked too hard to get my money ! 

No one's waiting for old Peer Gynt. 
CAPTAIN. Just as you please ; it's your own money. 
PEER GYNT. Quite so. It's mine and no one else's. 

Directly you have cast your anchor 

I'll settle up for what I owe you 

For my cabin passage hither 

From Panama ; and then I'll give you 

Something for a dram of brandy 

For the crew ; but not a penny 

More than that. You may have leave 

To knock me down if I give more ! 
CAPTAIN. You'll get my receipt, and nothing else. 

Now please excuse me ; the storm is rising. 

[He crosses the deck. It has become dark, and the cabin lamps 
are being lit. The sea grows rougher. Fog and thick clouds 
PEER GYNT. Provide for a crowd of others' children ? 

Fill others' hearts with happiness, 


Peer Gynt 

And so be always in their thoughts ? 

There's no one wasting thoughts on me. 

Lamps on their tables ? I'll put them out ! 

I'll find some way ! I will make them drunk ; 

Not one of these fellows shall go home sober. 

They shall go drunk to their wives and children ; 

They shall swear bang loudly on the table 

Frighten their families out of their wits ! 

Their wives shall scream and run out of the house, 

And their children too ! I'll spoil their pleasure ! 

[The ship rolls heavily; he stumbles, and has difficulty in holding 

That was a bad one ! The sea's as busy 

As if it were paid for what it's doing. 

It's the same always, up here in the north ; 

The sea to fight with, fierce and angry [Listens. 

What was that cry? 

THE WATCH [forward] . A wreck to leeward ! 
CAPTAIN [amidships]. Starboard the helm! Keep her close to the 


HELMSMAN. Are there men on the wreck ? 

THE WATCH. I can make out three. 

PEER GYNT. Lower a boat ! 

CAPTAIN. It would only capsize. [Goes forward. 

PEER GYNT. Who thinks of that? [To the crew. 

If you're men you'll save them! 

You're surely not afraid of a wetting ? 
BOATSWAIN. It's impossible in such a sea as this. 
PEER GYNT. They're calling again! The wind is raging. 

Cook, won't you try? Come on! I'll pay you 

COOK. Not if you gave me twenty guineas. 


Peer Gynt 

PEER GYNT. You dogs ! You cowards ! Don't you know 

That these are men that have wives and children 

Who are waiting ? 

BOATSWAIN. Patience will do them good. 

CAPTAIN. Keep her stern to the breakers ! 

HELMSMAN. The wreck's gone under. 

PEER GYNT. Was that sudden silence ? 

BOATSWAIN. If they are married, 

As you suggest, then the world's the richer 

By three newly created widows. 

[The storm increases in violence. PEER GYNT goes aft. 
PEER GYNT. There's no more Faith among men any longer 

No more Christianity worth the name ; 

There's little that's good in their words or their deeds, 

And they pay no heed to the Powers Above. 

In a storm like to-night's one may very well 

Be afraid of God ; these brutes should cower 

And remember that, as the saying goes, 

It's risky to play with elephants 

And then they defy Him openly ! 

I'm guiltless enough; if it comes to judgment, 

I can prove that I made an offer to pay them. 

But what do I get in return for that ? 

I know they say that your head lies easy 

If your conscience is clear. That may be true 

On terra firma ; but on the sea, 

Where an honest man's quite the exception, 

I don't consider it worth a rush. 

At sea you never can be yourself; 

You simply sink or swim with the others ; 

Should the hour of vengeance chance to strike 


Peer Gynt 

For the cook and the boatswain, I most likely 

Should be swept along to perdition with them : 

There's no respect for individuals 

You're nothing more than one of the crowd. 
My mistake has been that I've been too meek, 

And get the blame for all that has happened. 

If I were younger I do believe 

I'd change my tune and play the boss. 

There's time for it yet ! It shall get abroad 

That Peer has come overseas a winner ! 

By hook or crook I'll get back the farm ; 

I'll build on it it shall look like a castle. 

But not a soul shall come into my house ! 

They shall stand at the door and twiddle their caps ; 

They shall beg I'll let them do that with pleasure- 
But I'll not give them a single farthing ; 

If I've had to smart from the lash of fortune 

They'll find out that I can hit back again 

[A STRANGER /5 seen standing beside PEER GYNT in the gloom, 

bowing politely to him. 
STRANGER. Good evening ! 

PEER GYNT. Good evening! What ? Who are you? 

STRANGER. Your fellow-passenger, at your service. 
PEER GYNT. Indeed ? I thought I was the only one. 
STRANGER. A wrong impression, corrected now. 
PEER GYNT. But it's very strange I have never seen you 

Until this evening 

STRANGER. I don't go out 

In daytime. 
PEER GYNT. Perhaps you are not well r 

You're as white as a sheet 


Peer Gynt 

STRANGER. I'm quite well, thank you. 

PEER GYNT. What a storm ! 

STRANGER. Yes, what a blessing, man ! 

PEER GYNT. A blessing ? 

STRANGER. The waves are mountains high. 

It makes one's mouth water to think 

Of the wrecks that there will be to-night 

Of the corpses that will be washed ashore ! 
PEER GYNT. God forbid ! 
STRANGER. Have you ever seen a man 

That has been strangled or hanged or drowned ? 
PEER GYNT. What on earth do you mean ? 
STRANGER. There's a grin on their faces ; 

But the grin is ghastly, and for the most part 

They've bitten their tongues. 
PEER GYNT. Do go away ! 

STRANGER. Only one question ! Suppose, for instance, 

That the ship should run aground to-night 

And sink 

PEER GYNT. Then do you think there's danger ? 
STRANGER. I really don't know what to answer. 

Suppose I'm saved and you get drowned 

PEER GYNT. Oh, bosh ! 

STRANGER. Well, it's just possible. 

With one foot in the grave, a man 

Inclines to charitable thoughts 

PEER GYNT [putting his hand in his pocket} . I see ; it's money that you 

STRANGER. No ; but if you would be so kind 

As to present me with your corpse 

PEER GYNT. This is too much ! 


Peer Gynt 

STRANGER. Merely your corpse ! 

It's for a scientific purpose 

PEER GYNT. Get out ! 

STRANGER. But, my dear friend, consider 

The thing would be to your advantage ! 

I'd have you opened and laid bare. 

It really is the seat of dreaming 

That I am seeking ; but, besides, 

I'd have you thoroughly examined 

PEER GYNT. Get out ! 

STRANGER. But, sir a mere drowned corpse ! 

PEER GYNT. Blasphemous man ! You encourage the storm ! 

What folly ! In all this wind and rain 

And heavy seas and every sign 

That some fatality may happen 

Here are you asking for something worse ! 
STRANGER. I see that you're not disposed, for the moment, 

To carry the matter farther. But time 

So very often will alter things. [Bows politely. 

We shall meet when you're sinking, if not before ; 

Then, perhaps, you'll be in a better humour. 

[Goes into the cabin. 
PEER GYNT. Unpleasant fellows, these men of science ! 

Freethinkers, too [To the BOATSWAIN, who is passing. 

A word, my friend ! 

Who is that lunatic passenger? 
BOATSWAIN. I did not know we had any but you. 
PEER GYNT. No other ? Why, this gets worse and worse. 

[To a SAILOR who comes out of the cabin. 

Who went into the cabin just now? 
SAILOR. The ship's dog, sir ! [Passes on. 


Peer Gynt 

THE WATCH [calling out]. Land close ahead! 
PEER GYNT. My trunk ! My box ! Bring them up on deck ! 
BOATSWAIN. We have something else to think about now. 
PEER GYNT. Captain, I wasn't serious 

In what I said ! I was only joking ! 

Of course I'm going to help the cook ! 

CAPTAIN. The jib has gone ! 

MATE. There went the foresail ! 

BOATSWAIN [calling from forward}. Breakers ahead ! 
CAPTAIN. She'll go to pieces ! 

[The ship strikes. Noise and confusion. 



Off the coast, among rocks and breakers. The ship is sinking. Through 
the mist glimpses are caught of a boat with two men in it. A breaking 
wave Jills it; it capsizes; a scream is heard, then all is still for a while. 
Soon afterwards the boat comes into sight, floating keel uppermost. 
PEER GYNT comes to the surface near the boat. 

PEERGYNT. Help! Help! A boat! Help! I shall sink! 
God save me as the Bible says ! 

[Clings tight to the keel of the boat. The COOK comes to the surface 

on the other side of the boat. 
COOK. Oh, God for my dear children's sake 

Be pitiful ! Let me be saved ! [Holds on to the keel. 

PEER GYNT. Let go ! 
COOK. Let go ! 

PEER GYNT. I'll push you off! 

COOK. I'll push you off! 
PEER GYNT. I'll kick you off! 

Let go your hold ! It won't bear two ! 
COOK. I know. Get off! 
PEER GYNT. Get off yourself! 

COOK. Not likely ! 

[They fight. The COOK gets one hand hurt, but clings fast to the 

boat with the other hand. 
PEER GYNT. Take your hand away ! 

COOK. Be kind ! Be merciful ! Just think 
Of my young children there at home ! 


Peer Gynt 

PEER GYNT. I have more need to live than you, 

For I have got no children yet. 
COOK. Let go ! You've had your life ; I'm young ! 
PEER GYNT. Be quick and sink ; you're much too heavy. 
COOK. Have mercy ! For God's sake let go ! 

There's no one that will mourn for you 

I'm drowning ! [Shrieks and slips down. 

PEER GYNT [catching hold of the COOK'S hair]. No, I've got you tight 

By your back hair ; repeat " Our Father " ! 

COOK. I can't remember all seems dark 

PEER GYNT. Say what is most essential ! Quick ! 

COOK. " Give us this day " 

PEER GYNT. Oh, skip all that ; 

You have got all that you will need. 

COOK. " Give us this day " 

PEER GYNT. The same old song ! 

It's easy seen you were a cook [His grip gives way. 

COOK [sinking}. " Give us this day our " [Goes under. 

PEER GYNT. Amen, lad ! 

You were yourself up to the end. 

[Swings himself up on to the keel of the boat. 

Where there is life there's always hope 

[The STRANGER is seen in the ivater, catching hold of the boat. 
STRANGER. Good morning ! 

STRANGER. I heard a cry; 

It's funny I should find you here. 

Well? Do you see I spoke the truth? 
PEER GYNT. Let go ! There's barely room for one ! 
STRANGER. I'll swim quite well with my left leg. 

I'll float if only I insert 


Peer Gynt 

My finger-tip into this crack. 

But what about your corpse ? 
PEER GYNT. Be quiet ! 

STRANGER. The rest is absolutely done for 

PEER GYNT. Do hold your tongue ! 

STRANGER. Just as you wish. [Silence. 


STRANGER. I am silent. 

PEER GYNT. Devil's tricks ! 

What are you doing ? 
STRANGER. I am waiting. 

PEER GYNT [tearing his hair] . I shall go mad ! What are you ? 
STRANGER [nodding to him]. Friendly! 

PEER Gynt. Go on ! What more ? 
STRANGER. What do you think ? 

Don't you know anyone that's like me ? 

PEER GYNT. I know the Devil 

STRANGER [lowering his voice]. Is he wont 

To light us on the darkest paths 

Of life when we're beset by fear? 
PEER GYNT. Oh ! So it seems, on explanation, 

That you're a messenger of the light ? 
STRANGER. Friend, have you known say, twice a year 

What terror really means ? 
PEER GYNT. Of course. 

One is afraid when danger threatens ; 

But your words are ambiguous 

STRANGER. Well, have you ever, even once, 

Triumphed as the result of terror ? 
PEER GYNT [looking at him]. If you have come to guide my steps 

'Twas stupid not to come before. 


Peer Gynt 

It's not much good to choose the time 

When I'm most likely to be drowned. 
STRANGER. And would your triumph be more likely 

If you sat snugly by your fire ? 
PEER GYNT. Perhaps not ; but your talk was foolish. 

How could you think it would affect me ? 
STRANGER. Where I come from they think a smile 

Worth quite as much as any pathos. 
PEER GYNT. There is a time for everything. 

Things which a publican may do 

Are most disgraceful in a bishop. 
STRANGER. The souls of those of bygone days 

Whose ashes rest in funeral urns 

Aren't always in a solemn humour. 
PEER GYNT. Leave me, you bugbear ! Get away ! 

I won't die ! I must get to land ! 
STRANGER. As far as that goes, make your mind 

Quite easy ; no one ever dies 

Until he's seen the fifth act through. [Disappears. 

PEER GYNT. Ah, it slipped out of him at last 

He was a wretched Moralist. 



A churchyard high up in the mountains. A funeral is going on. The 
PRIEST and the MOURNERS are just finishing the last verse of a hymn. 
PEER GYNT is passing on the road, and stops at the churchyard gate. 

PEER GYNT. Here's another man going the way of all flesh. 

Well, God be praised that it isn't me ! [Goes into the churchyard. 
PRIEST. Now that his soul has gone to meet its God, 
And this poor dust waits like an empty husk, 
Let us, dear friends, in a few words recall 
The dead man's journey on this earth of ours. 

He wasn't rich, nor was he very clever ; 
His voice was weak, his bearing scarcely manly ; 
He had no strength of mind, nor much decision ; 
Nor in his own home did he seem the master. 
His manner when he came to church was such 
As if he felt he must request permission 
To take his seat among the congregation. 

Of Gudbrandsdal he was, you know, a native, 
And he was scarce a boy when he came hither ; 
And, to the last, as you no doubt have noticed, 
He always kept his right hand in his pocket. 

That same peculiarity I mention 
Was probably the only thing that stamped 
His picture on our minds ; that, and the shyness 
The almost shamefaced diffidence with which 
He bore himself when he came in amongst us. 
But, though he was so diffident and quiet, 


Peer Gynt 

And to the last was almost like a stranger, 

You know quite well, in spite of his concealment, 

The hand he hid had no more than four fingers. 

I well remember, many years ago, 
During the war, one morning a Conscription 
Was held at Lunde. Every one was full 
Of Norway's troubles and her doubtful future. 
Behind a table, I remember, sat 
A Captain and the Mayor, and several Sergeants ; 
And one by one our lads came in, were measured, 
Enrolled, and duly sworn in to the army. 
The room was full ; and outside in the courtyard 
Was heard the noise of the young people's laughter. 

A name was called out, and a lad came in 
With face as white as snow upon the hilltops. 
They told him to come forward to the table. 
His right hand was all swathed up in a napkin ; 
He gasped and swallowed tried to find his voice 
But seemed as if he had no words to answer 
The Captain's questions. Still, at last, he did ; 
And then, with crimson face and faltering tongue 
That sometimes let the words out with a rush, 
He mumbled some tale of an accident 
A reaping-hook that slipped and cut his finger 
Clean off his hand. There was a sudden silence. 
Men exchanged glances ; lips were curled in scorn ; 
Looks of disdain were flashed upon the lad, 
Who stood there staring with unseeing eyes ; 
He felt their scorn although he did not see it. 
And then the Captain, an old grey-haired man, 
Stood up, and spat, and pointed to the door 


Peer Gynt 

And said : " Begone ! " and so the lad went out. 

Those in the room divided to make way, 

So that he ran the gauntlet of them all. 

He reached the door, and then took to his heels ; 

Ran up the hillside through the woods and pastures, 

Up over rocks and stones, stumbling and slipping 

To where his home was, far up in the mountains. 

'Twas six months after that when he came hither, 
Bringing his mother, children, and betrothed. 
He leased some land upon the mountain-side 
Near to where Lomb is bounded by the moor. 
As soon as it was possible he married 
The mother of his children ; built a house ; 
Broke up the stony ground with such success 
That yellow grain in patches soon appeared 
Amidst the rocks. It's true that when he went 
To church he kept his right hand in his pocket ; 
But on his farm I know he worked as well 
With nine fingers as others with their ten. 
Then, one wet spring, a flood swept all away. 

They saved their lives, but nothing else ; and, poor 
And naked as he was, he set to work 
To clear the soil afresh; and by the autumn 
He'd built himself a house on safer ground. 
Safer ? Yes, from the flood but not the mountains. 
For, two years later, in an avalanche 
All that he had was overwhelmed again. 
But even avalanches had no power 
To daunt his soul. He set to work to dig 
And clear the snow and save what might be left ; 
And, ere the winter's snow had come again, 

O 207 

Peer Gynt 

He'd built his little house a third time up. 

Three sons he had three fine young lads and they 
Must go to school, and school was far away ; 
And so, from where the public roadway ended, 
He had to cut a steep and narrow path 
Through the hard snow. And then what did he do ? 
The eldest boy had to climb up and scramble 
As best he could ; and where it was too steep 
His father roped him to him for support. 
The other two he carried in his arms 
And on his back. 

And thus, year after year, 

He drudged ; and his three sons grew to be men. 
Then came a time when he might surely ask 
For something in return from them ; but they, 
Three prosperous men in far America, 
Had quite forgotten their Norwegian father, 
And how he used to help them to the school. 

He was a man whose vision never saw 
Farther than what lay nearest to his hand. 
Words which resound in other people's hearts 
Were meaningless to him as tinkling bells ; 
Family, Country all that's best and brightest 
Were blurred and hidden by a veil of tears. 

But never did I know a man so humble. 
From that Conscription Day he carried with him 
The sense of guilt, which showed as plainly on him 
As did the blush of shame upon his cheek 
And his four fingers hidden in his pocket. 
A breaker of his country's laws? Perhaps! 
But there is something that outshines the law 


Peer Gynt 

As certainly as Glitter tinde's peaks 

Stand gleaming in the sun above the clouds. 

He was a bad citizen, no doubt ; 

For Church and State alike, a sterile tree ; 

But up there on the rocky mountain-side, 

In the small circle of his hearth and home, 

Where his work lay, there I say he was great, 

Because he was himself. 'Twas only there 

The metal he was made of could ring true. 

His life was like a melody that's played 

On muted strings. And, therefore, peace be with you, 

Poor silent warrior, who fought and fell 

Waging the little war of peasant's life ! 

We will not seek to search the heart and reins ; 
That's not a task for us, but for his Maker. 
Still, this I hope and hope with confidence : 
That this man, as he stands before the Throne, 
Is not a cripple in the eyes of God ! 

[The congregation disperses. PEER GYNT remains alone. 
PEER GYNT. Well, that's what I call Christianity ! 
Nothing in it to make one feel uneasy. 
Indeed the theme of the Priest's address- 
That we should all strive to be ourselves 

Is really extremely edifying. [Looks into the grave. 

Was it he, I wonder, who slashed his knuckles 
When I was felling trees in the forest ? 
Who knows ? If I were not standing here 
By the grave of this congenial spirit 
I might believe that it was myself 
That was sleeping there and was listening 
In dreams to praises that I deserved. 


Peer Gynt 

It's really a beautiful Christian practice 

To take a kindly retrospect 

Of the whole life of the departed. 

I'd readily accept a verdict 

From this most worthy priest. However, 

I've still some time left, I expect, 

Before the sexton comes and claims me ; 

And, as the Scripture says : " The best 

Is still the best " ; and, in like manner : 

" Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof"; 

And, further: " Do not borrow trouble." 

The Church is the only comforter. 

Up till now I have never given 

The credit to it that is its due ; 

But now I know what good it does you 

To hear authority proclaim : 

" As you have sowed, so must you reap." 

We must be ourselves ; in everything, 

Both great and small, we must look after 

Ourselves and what concerns ourselves. 

Though Fortune fail us we shall win 

Respect if our careers have been 

Shaped in accordance with this doctrine. 

And now for home ! What though the way 

Be steep and narrow what though Fortune 

Be still malicious old Peer Gynt 

Will go his own way, and remain, 

As always : poor but virtuous. [Goes. 



A hillside showing the dried-up bed of a stream, by which stands a ruined 
mill. The ground is torn up, and everything is in a ruinous state. 
Outside the mill an auction is taking place; there is a large and noisy 
gathering of people, and drinking is going on. PEER GYNT 1*5 sitting 
on a heap of rubbish near the mill. 

PEER GYNT. Backward or forward, it's just as far ; 

Out or in, the way's as narrow. 

Time destroys and the stream cuts through. 

" Round about," said the Boyg; and we needs must, here. 
A MAN IN MOURNING. 1 Now there's nothing left but the rubbish. 

[Looks at PEER GYNT. 

Strangers, too ? God save you, sir ! 
PEER GYNT. Well met ! This is a merry scene ; 

Is it a christening, or a wedding ? 
MAN IN MOURNING. I should rather say a house-warming ; 

The bride, poor thing, is food for worms. 
PEER GYNT. And worms are fighting for rags and scraps. 
MAN IN MOURNING. It's a finished story, and this is the end. 
PEER GYNT. Every story ends the same ; 

I've known them all since I was a boy. 

A YOUNG BOY [holding a casting-ladle]. Look what a fine thing I 
have bought ! 

Peer Gynt used to mould buttons with this. 
ANOTHER. I got a fine purse for a farthing ! 

1 The Man in Mourning is Aslak, who apparently has married Ingrid and is now in 
mourning for her death. 


Peer Gynt 

A THIRD. A pedlar's pack for twopence halfpenny ! 

PEER GYNT. Peer Gynt? Who was he? 

MAN IN MOURNING. I only know 

He was brother-in-law to the bridegroom, Death, 

And also to the blacksmith Aslak. 

A MAN IN GREY. 1 You're forgetting me; you must be drunk! 
MAN IN MOURNING. You're forgetting the loft-door at Haegstad. 
MAN IN GREY. So I was ; but you were never dainty. 

MAN IN MOURNING. If only she doesn't play Death a trick 

MAN IN GREY. Come on ! Have a drink with your relation ! 
MAN IN MOURNING. Relation be damned ! Your drunken 


MAN IN GREY. Oh, nonsense ! Blood is thicker than that ; 

At least we're both Peer Gynt's relations. [They go off together. 
PEER GYNT [o5iV/e]. I'm meeting old friends. 
A BOY [calling after the MAN IN MOURNING]. My poor dead mother 

Will come after you, Aslak, if you get drinking. 
PEER GYNT [getting up]. The Agriculturalists are wrong; 

It doesn't smell better the deeper you dig. 
A BOY [with a bearskin] Here's the Dovre-Cat ! or at least his skin ! 

It was he chased the Troll on Christmas Eve. 
ANOTHER [with a pair of reindeer horns]. Here's the fine buck on 
which Peer Gynt 

Rode right along the ridge of Gendin. 

A THIRD [with a hammer, calls to the MAN IN MOURNING] . Hi ! 
Aslak ! Do you know this hammer ? 

Was it this you used when the Devil escaped ? 
A FOURTH [showing his empty hands] . Mads Moen, here's the invisible 

In which Peer Gynt and Ingrid vanished. 

1 The Man in Grey is Mads Moen. 

Peer Gynt 

PEER GYNT. Some brandy, boys ! I'm feeling old ; 

I'll hold an auction of all my rubbish. 
A BOY. What have you got to sell ? 
PEER GYNT. A castle; 

It's up at Ronde, and solidly built. 
BOY. I bid one button ! 
PEER GYNT. A drink with it, then ; 

It's a sin and a shame to offer less. 
ANOTHER BOY. He's a merry old chap ! 

[The crowd gathers round PEER GYNT. 
PEER GYNT. Grane, my horse ! 

Who bids? 

ONE OF THE CROWD. Where is he? 
PEER GYNT. Away in the West ! 

Near the sunset, boys ! He can trot as fast 

As Peer Gynt could make up his lies. 
VOICES. What more have you ? 
PEER GYNT. Both gold and rubbish ! 

I bought them at a loss, and now 

I'll sell them at a sacrifice. 
A BOY. Put them up ! 
PEER GYNT. A vision of a prayer-book ! 

You may have it for a hook and eye. 
BOY. Deuce take your visions ! 
PEER GYNT. Then my Empire ! 

I throw it to you ; you may scramble for it ! 
BOY. Does a crown go with it ? 
PEER GYNT. A lovely crown 

Of straw, and it will fit the first 

That puts it on. Here's something more ! 

An empty egg ! Grey hair of a madman ! 


Peer Gynt 

The Prophet's beard ! You may have them all 
If you'll only show me on the hillside 
A signpost marked : " This is the way " ! 
THE MAYOR [who has come up]. The way you're going on, my man, 

I think will lead you to the lock-up. 

PEER GYNT [with his hat in his hand]. Very likely. But, tell me, who 
was Peer Gynt ? 

THE MAYOR. Oh, bother ! 

PEER GYNT. Excuse me I want to know ! 

THE MAYOR. Well they say, an incurable romancer. 
PEER GYNT. Romancer? 

THE MAYOR. Yes ; romanced about 

All sorts of glorious deeds as if 
He had done all of them himself. 

Excuse me now, my friend, I'm busy [Goes away. 

PEER GYNT. And where's this wonderful fellow now ? 
AN ELDERLY MAN. He went overseas to a foreign land, 
And came to grief as one might have expected. 
It's many years now since he was hanged. 
PEER GYNT. Hanged ? Dear me ! I was sure of it ; 
The late Peer Gynt was himself to the last. [Bows. 

Good-bye. I'm much obliged to you all ! 

[Takes a few steps, then stops. 
You merry boys and lovely women, 
May I tell you a story in return ? 
VOICES. Yes, if you know one! 
PEER GYNT. Certainly. 

[Comes back to them. His face takes on an altered expression. 
I was in San Francisco, gold-digging, 
And the whole town was full of freaks ; 
One played the fiddle with his toes, 


Peer Gynt 

One danced fandangos on his knees ; 

A third, I heard, kept making verses 

While holes were bored right through his skull. 

To this freak-show the Devil came, 

To try his luck like so many others. 

His line was this : he could imitate 

The grunting of a pig exactly. 

His personality attracted, 

Although he was not recognized. 

The house was full, and on tenterhooks 

Of expectation. In he strode, 

Dressed in a cape with flowing wings ; 

Man muss sich drapieren, as the Germans say. 

But no one knew that in his cape 

He had a little pig concealed. 

And now he started his performance. 

The Devil pinched ; the pig gave tongue. 

The whole was a fantasia 

On a pig's life, from birth to slaughter, 

Ending up with a shriek like that 

Which follows on the slaughterer's stroke ; 

With which, the artist bowed and went. 

Then there arose a keen discussion 

Among the experts in the audience. 

The noises were both praised and censured ; 

Some found the tone of them too thin, 

Others declared the dying shriek 

Was far too studied ; but they all 

Were of the same mind on one point : 

That the performance was, qua grunt, 

Exceedingly exaggerated. 


Peer Gynt 

You see, that's what the Devil got, 
Because he'd made the sad mistake 
Of reckoning without his public. 

[Bows and goes away. An uneasy silence falls on the crowd. 



A clearing in a great forest, on the Eve of Pentecost. In the background is 
seen a hut, with a pair of reindeer horns over the door. PEER GYNT is 
on all fours on the ground, grubbing up wild onions. 

PEER GYNT. This is one standpoint. Where is the next? 
One should try all things and choose the best. 
I have done that ; I've been a Caesar, 
And now I'm behaving like Nebuchadnezzar. 
So I might go through Bible history. 
This old boy's back to mother earth. 
I remember the Book says : " Dust thou art." 
The great thing in life is to fill your belly. 
Fill it with onions ? It matters little ; 
I'll fit some cunning traps and snares. 
There is a brook ; I'll not go thirsty ; 
And all wild things shall do my bidding. 
And, suppose I die which perhaps may happen- 
Ill creep beneath a fallen tree ; 
Like the bear, I'll cover myself with leaves, 
And scratch in the bark, in great big letters : 
" Here lies Peer Gynt, a decent chap, 
Who was Emperor of all the Beasts." 
Emperor ? [Laughs to himself. 

You absurd old humbug ! 
You're not an emperor, you're an onion ! 
Now, my dear Peer, I'm going to peel you, 
However little you may enjoy it. 


Peer Gynt 

[Takes an onion and peels it, layer by layer. 
There's the untidy outer husk ; 

That's the shipwrecked man on the wreck of the boat ; 
Next layer's the Passenger, thin and skinny- 
Still smacking of Peer Gynt a little. 
Next we come to the gold-digger self; 
The pith of it's gone some one's seen to that. 
This layer with a hardened edge 
Is the fur-hunter of Hudson Bay. 
The next one's like a crown. No, thank you ! 
We'll throw it away without further question. 
Here's the Antiquarian, short and sturdy ; 
And here is the Prophet, fresh and juicy ; 
He stinks, as the saying goes, of lies 
Enough to bring water to your eyes. 
This layer, effeminately curled, 
Is the man who lived a life of pleasure. 
The next looks sickly. It's streaked with black. 
Black may mean missionaries or negroes. 

[Pulls off several layers together. 
There's a most surprising lot of layers! 
Are we never coming to the kernel ? 

[Pulls all that is left to pieces. 
There isn't one ! To the innermost bit 
It's nothing but layers, smaller and smaller. 
Nature's a joker ! [Throws the bits away from him. 

Deuce take all thinking ! 
If you begin that you may miss your footing. 
Well, anyway, I don't run that risk 
As long as I'm down on all fours here. 

[Scratches the back of his head. 

Peer Gynt 

Life's an uncommonly odd contraption ; 

It plays an underhand game with us ; 

If you try to catch hold of it it eludes you, 

And you get what you didn't expect or nothing. 

[Goes closer to the hut, looks at it, and starts. 

That hut ? In the forest ! Eh ? [Rubs his eyes. 

I'm certain 

I must have seen that hut before. 

The reindeer horns there, over the door ! 

A mermaid carved on the end of the gable ! 

That's a lie ! No mermaid just logs and nails 

And the bolt that should keep out plaguy thoughts ! 

[SOLVEIG'S voice is heard from the hut. 
SOLVEIG [singing] . Now all is ready for Pentecost. 

Dear lad far away, are you coming near ? 

If your burden's heavy, then rest awhile; 

I shall wait, because I promised you, dear. 

[PEER GYNT rises to his feet, deathly pale and quiet. 
PEER GYNT. One who remembered and one who forgot ; 

One who has kept what the other has lost. 

Life's serious, not a foolish jest ! 

Ah, misery ! Here my Empire lay ! [Runs into the wood. 



A moor with firs, at night. A forest fire has laid it waste. Charred 
tree-trunks for miles around. Patches of white mist are lying here 
and there over the ground. PEER GYNT comes running over the 

PEER GYNT. Ashes, mists, and dust-clouds flying- 
Fine material to build with ! 

Stench and rottenness within them ; 

All a whited sepulchre. 

Fancies, dreams, and still-born wisdom 

For a base, while lies shall serve 

For a staircase for the building 

Of a lofty pyramid. 

Flight from everything that's worthy ; 

No repentance only terror ; 

These shall cap a building labelled : 

Petrus Gyntus Casar fecit! [Listens. 

What is that sound like children's weeping- 
Weeping that is half a song ? 

What are these that I see rolling 

At my feet, like balls of thread ? [Kicks his feet about. 

Get away ! You block the path up ! 
THE THREADBALLS l [on the ground]. 
We are thoughts ; 
You should have thought us ; 

1 The idea of Trolls incorporated in threadballs is frequently met with in Scandinavian 


Peer Gynt 

Little feet, to life 

You should have brought us ! 

PEER GYNT [going round them}. I've only brought one thought to 

KfT U,u/zL 

And it was wry and bandy-legged ! 


We should have risen 
With glorious sound ; 
But here like threadballs 
We are earth-bound. 

PEER GYNT [stumbling]. Threadballs! You infernal rascals ! 

Are you tripping up your father ? [Runs away. 

WITHERED LEAVES [flying before the wind]. 

We are a watchword ; 
You should have used us ! 
Life, by your sloth, 
Has been refused us. 
By worms we're eaten 
All up and down ; 
No fruit will have us 
For spreading crown. 

PEER GYNT. Still, you have not been born for nothing ; 

Lie still, and you will serve for manure. 

We are songs ; 
You should have sung us ! 
In the depths of your heart 
Despair has wrung us ! 
We lay and waited ; 



[Runs away. 


Peer Gynt 

You called us not. 

May your throat and voice 

With poison rot ! 

PEER GYNT. Poison yourselves, you silly doggerel ! 

Had I any time for verse and twaddle ? [Goes to one side. 

DEWDROPS [dropping from the branches]. 

We are tears 
Which were never shed. 
The cutting ice 
Which all hearts dread 
We could have melted ; 
But now its dart 
Is frozen into 
A stubborn heart. 
The wound is closed ; 
Our power is lost. 

PEER GYNT. Thanks ! I wept at Rondesvalen, 

And got a thrashing on the backside ! 

We are deeds 

You have left undone ; 

Strangled by doubt, 

Spoiled ere begun. 

At the Judgment Day 

We shall be there 

To tell our tale ; 

How will you fare ? 

PEER GYNT. Rubbish ! You can't condemn a man 
For actions that he hasnt done ! 
p 223 

Peer Gynt 

AASE'S VOICE [from afar off]. 

Fie, what a driver ! 
Ugh ! You've upset me 
Into a snowdrift, 
Muddied and wet me. 
Peer, where's the castle ? 
You've driven madly ; 
The whip in your hand 
The Devil's used badly! 

PEER GYNT. I'd best be off while I am able. 
If I have to bear the burden 
Of the Devil's sins I'll sink 
Into the ground. I find my own 
Quite a heavy enough load. 

[Runs off. 



Another part of the moor. 

PEER GYNT [singing]. A sexton! a sexton! Where are you all ? 

Open your bleating mouths and sing ! 

We've bands of crape tied round our hats, 

And plenty of corpses for burying ! 

[The BUTTON-MOULDER, carrying his box of tools and a big 

casting-ladle, comes in by a side path. 
BUTTON-MOULDER. Well met, gaffer ! 

PEER GYNT. Good evening, my friend ! 

BUTTON-MOULDER. You seem in a hurry. Where are you going ? 
PEER GYNT. To a funeral. 

BUTTON-MOULDER. Really? My sight's not good- 

Excuse me is your name by any chance Peer ? 
PEER GYNT. Peer Gynt's my name. 
BUTTON-MOULDER. What a piece of luck ! 

It was just Peer Gynt I was looking for. 
PEER GYNT. Were you? What for? 
BUTTON-MOULDER. Well, as you see, 

I am a button-moulder ; and you 

Must be popped into my Casting-ladle. 
PEER GYNT. What for ? 

BUTTON-MOULDER. So as to be melted down. 

PEER GYNT. Melted ? 
BUTTON-MOULDER. Yes ; it's clean and it's empty. 

Your grave is dug and your coffin ordered ; 

Your body will make fine food for worms ; 


Peer Gynt 

But the Master's orders bid me fetch 

Your soul at once. 

PEER GYNT. Impossible ! 

Like this ? without the slightest warning ? 
BUTTON-MOULDER. Alike for funerals and confinements 

The custom is to choose the day 

Without giving the slightest warning 

To the chief guest of the occasion. 
PEER GYNT. Quite so. My head is going round ! 

You are ? 

BUTTON-MOULDER. You heard ; a button-moulder. 
PEER GYNT. I understand ! A favourite child 

Is called by lots of names. Well, Peer, 

So that's to be the end of your journey! 

Still, it's a scurvy trick to play me. 

I deserved something a little kinder. 

I'm not so bad as perhaps you think ; 

I've done some little good in the world. 

At worst I might be called a bungler, 

But certainly not an out-and-out sinner. 
BUTTON-MOULDER. But that is just the point, my man. 

In the highest sense you're not a sinner ; 

So you escape the pangs of torment 

And come into the Casting-ladle. 
PEER GYNT. Oh, call it what you like a ladle 

Or the bottomless pit it's just the same ! 

Ginger is always hot in the mouth, 
Whatever you may be pleased to call it. 

Satan, away ! 

BUTTON-MOULDER. You are not so rude 
As to think that I've a cloven hoof? 


Peer Gynt 

PEER GYNT. Cloven hoof or fox's claws 

Whichever you like. So now pack off! 

Mind your own business, and be off! 
BUTTON-MOULDER. My friend, you're under a great delusion. 

We're both in a hurry ; so, to save time, 

I'll try to explain the matter to you. 

You are, as you yourself have said, 

Nothing great in the way of a sinner 

Scarcely a middling one, perhaps 

PEER GYNT. Now you are talking reasonably. 
BUTTON-MOULDER. Wait a bit ! I think it would be going 

Too far to call you virtuous 

PEER GYNT. I certainly don't lay claim to that. 
BUTTON-MOULDER. Well, then, say, something betwixt and between. 

Sinners in the true grand style 

Are seldom met with nowadays ; 

That style of sin needs power of mind 

It's something more than dabbling in mud. 
PEER GYNT. That's perfectly true ; one should go at it 

With something of a Berserk's fury. 
BUTTON-MOULDER. You, on the contrary, my friend, 

Took sinning lightly. 
PEER GYNT. Just, my friend, 

A little mud-splashed, so to speak. 
BUTTON-MOULDER. Now we're agreed. The bottomless pit 

Is not for you who played with mud. 
PEER GYNT. Consequently, my friend, I take it 

That I may have your leave to go 

Just as I came ? 

BUTTON-MOULDER. Oh, no, my friend- 
Consequently you'll be melted down. 


Peer Gynt 

PEER GYNT. What's this new game that you've invented 

While I have been abroad ? 
BUTTON-MOULDER. The practice 

Is just as old as the Creation, 

And was invented for the purpose 

Of keeping things up to the standard. 

You know in metal work, for instance, 

It sometimes happens that a casting 

Turns out a failure, absolutely 

Buttons are turned out without loops. 

What would you do in such a case ? 
PEER GYNT. I'd throw the trash away. 

Your father had the reputation 

Of reckless wastefulness as long 
As he had anything to waste. 
The Master, on the other hand, 
Is economical, you see, 
And therefore is a man of substance. 
He never throws away as useless 
A single thing that may be dealt with 
As raw material. Now, you 
Were meant to be a gleaming button 
On the World's waistcoat, but your loop 
Was missing ; so you've got to go 
Into the scrap-heap, to be merged 
Into the mass. 

PEER GYNT. But do you mean 
That I've got to be melted down 
With any Tom and Dick and Harry 
And moulded fresh ? 


Peer Gynt 

BUTTON-MOULDER. That's what I mean. 

That's what we've done to not a few. 

It's what they do at the mint with money 

When the coin is too much worn with use. 
PEER GYNT. But it's simply disgusting niggardliness ! 

My dear friend, won't you let me go ? 

A loopless button a smooth-worn coin 

What are they to a man of your master's substance ? 
BUTTON-MOULDER. The fact of your having a soul's enough 

To give you a certain intrinsic value. 
PEER GYNT. No, I say ! No ! With tooth and nail 

I'll fight against it ! I'd rather, far, 

Put up with anything than that ! 
BUTTON-MOULDER. But what do you mean by "anything"? 

You must be reasonable, you know ; 

You're not the sort that goes to Heaven 

PEER GYNT. I'm humble ; I don't aim so high 

As that ; but I'm not going to lose 

A single jot of what's myself. 

Let me be sentenced in ancient fashion ; 

Send me to Him with the Cloven Hoof 

For a certain time say, a hundred years, 

If the sentence must be a very severe one. 

That's a thing I dare say one might put up with ; 

The torture would then be only moral, 

And perhaps, after all, not so very tremendous. 

It would be a transition, so to speak, 

As the fox said. 1 If you wait there comes 

Deliverance and you may get back ; 

Meanwhile you hope for better days. 

1 " As the fox said when they skinned him." A Norwegian proverb. 


Peer Gynt 

But the other idea to be swallowed up 

Like a speck in a mass of strange material 

This ladle business losing all 

The attributes that make a Gynt 

That fills my inmost soul with horror ! 
BUTTON-MOULDER. But, my dear Peer, there is no need 

For you to make so great a fuss 

About so small a thing ; because 

You never yet have been yourself. 

What difference can it make to you 

If, when you die, you disappear ? 
PEER GYNT. Vve never been myself! Ha ! ha ! 

You almost make me laugh. Peer Gynt 

Anything but himself! No, no, 

Friend Button-moulder, you are wrong ; 

You're judging blindly. If you searched 

My inmost being you would find 

I'm Peer right through, and nothing else. 
BUTTON-MOULDER. Impossible. Here are my orders. 

See, they say : " You will fetch Peer Gynt. 

He has defied his destiny. 

He is a failure, and must go 

Straight into the Casting-ladle." 
PEER GYNT. What nonsense ! It must surely mean 

Some other Gynt. Are you quite sure 

That it says Peer ? not John, or Rasmus ? 
BUTTON-MOULDER. I melted them down long ago. 

Now, come along and don't waste time. 
PEER GYNT. No, that I won't ! Suppose to-morrow 

You found that it meant some one else ? 

That would be pleasant ! My good man, 


Peer Gynt 

You must be careful, and remember 

What a responsibility 

BUTTON-MOULDER. I've got my orders to protect me. 
PEER GYNT. Give me a little respite, then ! 
PEER GYNT. I will find means to prove 

That, all my life, I've been myself; 

That is, of course, the point at issue. 
BUTTON-MOULDER. Prove it ? But how ? 
PEER GYNT. With witnesses 

And testimonials. 

That you won't satisfy the Master. 
PEER GYNT. I'm quite sure that I shall ! Besides, 

We'll talk about that when the time comes. 

Dear man, just let me have myself 

On loan for quite a little while. 

I will come back to you. We men 

Are not born more than once, you know, 

And naturally we make a fight 

To keep the self with which we came 

Into the world. Are we agreed ? 
BUTTON-MOULDER. So be it. But, remember this : 

At the next crossroads we shall meet. 

[PEER GYNT runs off. 



Another part of the moor. 

PEER GYNT [running in]. Time is money, as people say. 

If I only knew where the crossroads are- 
It may be near, or it may be far. 

The ground seems to burn my feet like fire. 

A witness ! A witness ! Where shall I find one ? 

It's next to impossible, here in the forest. 

The world's a bungle ! It's managed wrong 

If it's necessary for a man to prove 

His rights that are clear as the noonday sun ! 

[A bent OLD MAN, with a staff in his hand and a bag on his 

back, hobbles up to PEER GYNT. 
OLD MAN. Kind sir, give a homeless old man a penny ! 

PEER GYNT. I'm sorry I have no change about me 

OLD MAN. Prince Peer ! Can it be that we meet at last ? 

PEER GYNT. Why, who ? 

OLD MAN. He's forgotten the old man at Ronde ! 

PEER GYNT. You surely are never ? 

OLD MAN. The King of the Dovre. 

PEER GYNT. The Troll King ? Really? The Troll King ? Answer ! 

OLD MAN. I'm he, but in different circumstances. 

PEER GYNT. Ruined ? 

OLD MAN. Aye, robbed of everything ; 

A tramp, and as hungry as a wolf. 
PEER GYNT. Hurrah ! Such witnesses as this 

Don't grow on every tree ! 


Peer Gynt 

OLD MAN. Your Highness 

Has grown grey too since last we met. 
PEER GYNT. Worry and age, dear father-in-law. 

Well, let's forget our private affairs ; 

And, above all, our family squabbles. 

I was a foolish youth 

OLD MAN. Yes, yes ; 

You were young, and youth must have its fling. 

And it's lucky for you that you jilted your bride ; 

You've escaped a lot of shame and bother, 

For afterwards she went clean to the bad 

PEER GYNT. Dear me ! 

OLD MAN. Now she may look after herself. 

Just think she and Trond have gone off together. 
PEER GYNT. What Trond? 
OLD MAN. Of the Valfjeld. 

PEER GYNT. He? Aha, 

I robbed him of the cowherd girls. 
OLD MAN. But my grandson's grown a fine big fellow, 

And has bouncing babies all over the country. 
PEER GYNT. Now, my dear man, I must cut you short ; 

I am full of quite a different matter. 

I'm in rather a difficult position, 

And have to get a certificate 

Or a testimonial from some one ; 

And I think you'll be the very person. 

I can always raise the wind enough 

To stand you a drink 

OLD MAN. Oh! Can I really 

Be of assistance to your Highness? 

Perhaps, if that is so, you'll give me 


Peer Gynt 

A character in return? 
PEER GYNT. With pleasure. 

I'm a little short of ready money 

And have to be careful in every way. 

Now, listen to me. Of course you remember 

How I came that night to woo your daughter 

OLD MAN. Of course, your Highness ! 

PEER GYNT. Oh, drop the title ! 

Well, you wanted to do me violence- 
To spoil my sight by cutting my eyeball, 

And turn Peer Gynt into a Troll. 

What did I do? I strongly objected; 

Swore I would stand on my own feet ; 

Gave up my love, and power, and honours, 

Simply and solely to be myself. 

I want you to swear to that in court 

OLD MAN. I can't do that ! 

PEER GYNT. What's that you're saying ? 

OLD MAN. You'll surely not force me to swear a lie ? 

Remember that you put on Troll breeches, 

And tasted our mead 

PEER GYNT. Yes, you tempted me ; 

But I resolutely made up my mind 

That I would not give in. And that's the way 

A man shows what he's worth. A song 

Depends on its concluding verse. 
OLD MAN. But the conclusion, Peer, was just 

The opposite of what you think. 
PEER GYNT. What do you mean ? 
OLD MAN. You took away 

My motto graven on your heart. 


Peer Gynt 

PEER GYNT. What motto ? 

OLD MAN. That compelling word 

PEER GYNT. Word ? 

OLD MAN. that distinguishes a Troll 

From Mankind: " Troll, to thyself be 

Enough \ " 

PEER GYNT [with a shriek] . Enough I 
OLD MAN. And ever since, 

With all the energy you have, 

You've lived according to that motto. 
PEER GYNT. I? I? Peer Gynt? 
OLD MAN [weeping]. You're most ungrateful. 

You've lived like a Troll, but have kept it secret. 

The word I taught has enabled you 

To move in the world like a well-to-do man ; 

And now you begin abusing me 

And the word to which you owe gratitude. 
PEER GYNT. Enough ! A mere Troll ! An egoist ! 

It must be nonsense it can't be true ! 

OLD MAN [producing a bundle of newspapers]. Don't you suppose 
that we have our papers ? 

Wait ; I will show you in black and white 

How the Bloksberg Post has sung your praises ; 

The Heklefjeld News has done the same 

Ever since the winter you went abroad. 

Will you read them, Peer ? I'll be pleased to let you. 

Here's an article signed: " Stallion's Hoof." 

Here's one : " On the National Spirit of Trolldom " ; 

The writer shows how true it is 

That it doesn't depend upon horns or tails, 

But on having the spirit of Trollhood in one. 


Peer Gynt 

" Our ' Enough,' " he concludes, " is what gives the stamp 

Of Troll to Man " ; and he mentions you 

As a striking instance. 
PEER GYNT. I a Troll ? 

OLD MAN. It seems quite clear. 
PEER GYNT. Then I might have stayed 

Where I was, and lived in peace and comfort 

At Ronde ! I might have saved shoe leather, 

And spared myself much toil and trouble ! 

Peer Gynt a Troll ! It's a pack of lies ! 

Good-bye ! Here's a penny to buy tobacco. 

OLD MAN. But, dear Prince Peer ! 

PEER GYNT. Oh, drop this nonsense ! 

You're mad, or else you're in your dotage. 

Go to a hospital. 
OLD MAN. Aye, it's that 

I'm looking for. But, as I told you, 

My grandson's very influential 

In all this part, and tells the people 

I don't exist except in legends. 

The saying goes that one's relations 

Are always the worst ; and now, alas, 

I feel the truth of it. It's sad 

To be looked on as being merely 

A legendary personage 

PEER GYNT. Dear man, you're not the only one 

To suffer that mishap. 
OLD MAN. And then, 

We Trolls have nothing in the way 

Of Charities or Savings Banks 

Or Alms-boxes ; such institutions 


Peer Gynt 

Would never be acceptable 

At Ronde. 
PEER GYNT. No ; and there you see 

The work of your confounded motto 

Your fine " To thyself be enough ! " 
OLD MAN. Your Highness has no need to grumble. 

And if, in some way or another ? 

PEER GYNT. You're on the wrong scent altogether ; 

I'm at the end of my resources. 
OLD MAN. Impossible ! Your Highness ruined ? 
PEER GYNT. Cleared out. Even my princely self 

Is now in pawn. And that's your fault, 

You cursed Trolls ! It only shows 

What comes of evil company. 
OLD MAN. So there's another of my hopes 

Destroyed ! Good-bye ! I'd better try 

And beg my way down to the town 

PEER GYNT. And when you're there what will you do ? 
OLD MAN. I'll try and go upon the stage. 

They're advertising for * National Types ' 

In the papers. 
PEER GYNT. Well, good luck to you ! 

And give my kind regards to them ! 

If I can only free myself 

I'll go the same way too. I'll write 

A farce that shall be both profound 

And entertaining, and its title 

Shall be, Sic Transit Gloria Mundi. 

[Runs off along the path, leaving the OLD MAN calling after him. 


At crossroads. 

PEER GYNT. This is the tightest corner, Peer, 

You've ever been in. The Trolls' " Enough " 

Has done for you. Your ship's a wreck ; 

You must cling to the wreckage anything 

To avoid the general rubbish-heap. 
BUTTON-MOULDER [at the parting of the ways]. Well, Peer Gynt? 

And your witnesses ? 

PEER GYNT. What, crossroads here ? This is quick work. 
BUTTON-MOULDER. I can read your face as easily 

As I can a book, and know your thoughts. 

PEER GYNT. I'm tired from running one goes astray 

BUTTON-MOULDER. Yes ; and, besides, what does it lead to ? 
PEER GYNT. True enough ; in the woods, in this failing light- 

BUTTON-MOULDER. There's an old man trudging along; shall we 

call him ? 
PEER GYNT. No, let him alone ; he's a drunken scamp. 

BUTTON-MOULDER. But perhaps he could 

PEER GYNT. Hush ! No don't call him ! 

BUTTON-MOULDER. Is that the way of it? 

PEER GYNT. Just one question : 

What is it really to " be one's self" ? 
BUTTON-MOULDER. That's a strange question from a man 

Who just now 

PEER GYNT. Tell me what I asked you. 

Q 239 

Peer Gynt 

BUTTON-MOULDER. To be one's self is to slay one's self. 1 

But as perhaps that explanation 

Is thrown away on you, let's say : 

To follow out, in everything, 

What the Master's intention was. 
PEER GYNT. But suppose a man was never told 

What the Master's intention was ? 
BUTTON-MOULDER. Insight should tell him. 
PEER GYNT. But our insight 

So often is at fault, and then 

We're thrown out of our stride completely. 
BUTTON-MOULDER. Quite so, Peer Gynt. And lack of insight 

Gives to our friend with the Cloven Hoof 

His strongest weapon, let me tell you. 
PEER GYNT. It's all an extremely subtle problem. 

But, listen ; I give up my claim 

To have been myself; it very likely 

Would be too difficult to prove it. 

I'll not attempt to fight the point. 

But, as I was wandering all alone 

Over the moor just now, I felt 

A sudden prick from the spur of conscience. 

I said to myself: " You are a sinner " 

BUTTON-MOULDER. Oh, now you're back to where you started- 
PEER GYNT. No, not at all ; I mean a great one 

Not only in deed, but in thought and word. 

I lived a dreadful life abroad 

BUTTON-MOULDER. May be ; but have you anything 

To show to prove it ? 
PEER GYNT. Give me time ; 

1 That is, to kill the base part of one's nature that one's better self may live. 


Peer Gynt 

I'll find a priest, and get it all 

In writing, properly attested. 
BUTTON-MOULDER. If you can do that it will clear things up, 

And you will be spared the Casting-ladle. 

But my orders, Peer 

PEER GYNT. They're on very old paper ; 

It certainly dates from a long time back, 

When the life I lived was loose and foolish. 

I posed as a Prophet and Fatalist. 

Well, may I try ? 


PEER GYNT. Be obliging ! 

I'm sure you have no great press of business. 

It's excellent air in this part of the country ; 

They say it adds years to the people's lives. 

The parson at Justedal used to say : 

" It is seldom that anyone dies in this valley." 
BUTTON-MOULDER. As far as the next crossroads no farther. 
PEER GYNT. I must find a parson, if I have 

To go through fire and water to get him ! 


A heathery slope. A winding path leads up to the hills. 

PEER GYNT. You never can tell what will come in useful, 

As Esben * said of the magpie's wing. 

Who would have thought that one's sinfulness 

Would, in the end, prove one's salvation ? 

The whole affair is a ticklish business, 

For it's out of the frying-pan into the fire ; 

But still there's a saying that's very true 

Namely, that while there's life there's hope. 

[A THIN PERSON, dressed in a priesfs cassock which is well tucked 
up, and carrying a bird-catcher's net over his shoulder, comes 
running down the hill. 

Who's that with the bird-net ? It's a parson ! 

Hurrah ! I am really in luck to-day ! 

Good afternoon, sir ! The path is rough 
THIN PERSON. It is ; but what would not one put up with 

To win a soul ? 
PEER GYNT. Oh, then there's some one 

Who's bound for heaven ? 
THIN PERSON. Not at all ; 

I hope he's bound for another place. 
PEER GYNT. May I walk with you a little way ? 
THIN PERSON. By all means; I'm glad of company. 
PEER GYNT. Something is on my mind 

1 Esben Askeladd, in a folk-tale, where his finding of a dead magpie led to his winning 
the hand of the fair Princess. 


Peer Gynt 

THIN PERSON. Speak on ! 

PEER GYNT. You have the look of an honest man. 

I have always kept my country's laws 

And have never been put under lock and key ; 

Still, a man misses his footing sometimes 

And stumbles 

THIN PERSON. That's so, with the best of us. 

PEER GYNT. These trifles, you know 

THIN PERSON. Only trifles ? 


I have never gone in for wholesale sinning. 
THIN PERSON. Then, my dear man, don't bother me. 

I'm not the man you seem to think. 

I see you're looking at my fingers ; 

What do you think of them ? 
PEER GYNT. Your nails 

Seem most remarkably developed. 
THIN PERSON. And now you're glancing at my feet ? 
PEER GYNT [pointing]. Is that hoof 1 natural? 
THIN PERSON. Of course. 

PEER GYNT [lifting his hat] . I would have sworn you were a parson. 

And so I have the honour to meet ? 

What luck ! If the front door is open 

One doesn't use the servants' entrance ; 

If one should meet the King himself 

One need not seek approach through lackeys. 
THIN PERSON. Shake hands ! You seem unprejudiced. 

My dear sir, what can I do to serve you ? 

You must not ask me for wealth or power ; 

1 In Scandinavian folklore the Devil is traditionally represented with a horse's hoof for a 
right foot. 



NT Ipoiv 


Je sinning. 
, don't both 

Of course. 

v ere a parson. 

Peer Gynt 

I haven't such a thing to give you, 

However willing I might be. 

You wouldn't believe how bad things are 

With us just now ; nothing goes right ; 

Souls are so scarce just now and then 

A single one 

PEER GYNT. Have people, then, 

Improved so wonderfully ? 

Just the reverse deteriorated 

Shamefully ; the most of them 

End in the Casting-ladle. 

I've heard a little about that ; 

It really was on that account 

That I approached you. 
THIN PERSON. Speak quite freely ! 

PEER GYNT. Well, if it's not too much to ask, 

I'm very anxious to secure 

THIN PERSON. A snug retreat, eh ? 

PEER GYNT. You have guessed 

What I would say before I said it. 

You say you're not doing much business, 

And so perhaps my small suggestion 

May not be irksome 

THIN PERSON. But, my friend 

PEER GYNT. I do not ask for much. Of course, 

I shouldn't look for any wages, 

But only as far as possible 

To be treated as one of the family. 
THIN PERSON. A nice warm room? 


Peer Gynt 

PEER GYNT. But not too warm. 

And, preferably, I should like 

An easy access, in and out, 

So that I could retrace my steps 

If opportunity should offer 

For something better. 
THIN PERSON. My dear friend, 

I really am extremely sorry, 

But you can't think how very often 

Exactly similar requests 

Are made to me by people leaving 

The scene of all their earthly labours. 
PEER GYNT. But when I call to mind my conduct 

In days gone by it seems to me 

I am just suited for admittance 

THIN PERSON. But they were trifles 

PEER GYNT. In a sense ; 

Still, now that I remember it, 

I did some trade in negro slaves 

THIN PERSON. I have had folk who carried on 

A trade in minds and wills, but still 

Did it half-heartedly and they 

Didn't get in. 
PEER GYNT. Well I've exported 

Idols of Buddha out to China. 
THIN PERSON. Rubbish ! We only laugh at those. 

I have known folk disseminating 

Uglier idols, far in sermons, 

In art and literature and yet 

Not getting in. 

PEER GYNT. Yes, but look here ! 


Peer Gynt 

I've passed myself off as a Prophet! 
THIN PERSON. Abroad? That's nothing ! Such escapades 

End mostly in the Casting-ladle. 

If you've no stronger claim than that 

I can't admit you, however much 

I'd like to do it. 
PEER GYNT. Well, but listen ! 

I had been shipwrecked, and was clinging 

Fast to a boat that had been capsized. 

" A drowning man clings to a straw," 

The saying goes ; but there's another : 

" Every one for himself" ; and so 

The fact that the ship's cook was drowned 

Was certainly half due to me. 
THIN PERSON. It would have been more to the point 

If you had been responsible 

For stealing half a cook-maid's virtue. 

Begging your pardon, what's the good 

Of all this talk of half a sin? 

Who do you think, in these hard times, 

Is going to waste expensive fuel 

On worthless rubbish such as that? 

Now, don't be angry ; it's your sins 

And not yourself I'm sneering at. 

Excuse my speaking out so plainly. 

Be wise, my friend, and give it up ; 

Resign yourself to the Casting-ladle. 

Suppose I gave you board and lodging, 

What would you gain by that? Consider 

You are a reasonable man. 

Your memory's good, it's very true, 


Peer Gynt 

But everything you can recall, 

Whether you judge it with your head 

Or with your heart, is nothing more 

Than what our Swedish friends would call 

" Very poor sport." There's nothing in it 

That's worth a tear or worth a smile, 

Worth boasting or despairing of, 

Nothing to make one hot or cold 

Only, perhaps, to make one angry. 
PEER GYNT. You can't tell where the shoe is pinching 

Unless you've got it on, you know. 
THIN PERSON. That's true ; and thanks to so-and-so 

I only need one odd one. Still, 

I'm glad you mentioned shoes, because 

It has reminded me that I 

Must push along. I've got to fetch 

A joint I hope will prove a fat one. 

I haven't any time to spare 

To stand here gossiping like this 

PEER GYNT. And may I ask what sort of brew 

Of sin this fellow has concocted ? 
THIN PERSON. As far as I can gather, he 

Has been persistently himself 

By day and night ; and that is what 

Is at the root of the whole matter. 
PEER GYNT. Himself? Does your domain include 

People like that* 
THIN PERSON. Just as it happens ; 

The door is always left ajar. 

Remember that there are two ways 

A man can be himself; a cloth 


Peer Gynt 

Has both a right side and a wrong. 

You know they've lately invented in Paris 

A method by which they can take a portrait 

By means of the sun. They can either make 

A picture like the original, 

Or else what is called a negative. 

The latter reverses the light and shade ; 

To the casual eye it's far from pretty ; 

But the likeness is in it, all the same, 

And to bring it out is all that is needed. 
I If in the conduct of its life 

A soul has photographed itself 

So as to make a negative, - ^ ^^f * 1 ^ 

They don't on that account destroy 

The plate ; they send it on to me. 
take in hand the rest of the process, 

And proceed to effect a transformation. 

I steam it, dip it, burn it, clean it, 

With sulphur and other ingredients, 

Till I get the likeness the plate should give 

That's to say, what is called a positive. 

But when, as in your case, it's half rubbed out 

No sulphur or lye is of any use. 
PEER GYNT. So, then, one may come to you like soot 

And depart like snow ? May I ask what name 

Is on the particular negative 

That you're on the point of converting now 

Into a positive ? 

THIN PERSON. Yes Peer Gynt. 
PEER GYNT. Peer Gynt? Indeed! Is Peer Gynt himself? 
THIN PERSON. He swears he is. 


Peer Gynt 

PEER GYNT. He's a truthful man. 

THIN PERSON. You know him, perhaps ? 

PEER GYNT. Just as one knows 

So many people. 
THIN PERSON. I've not much time ; 

Where did you see him last? 
PEER GYNT. At the Cape. 

THIN PERSON. The Cape of Good Hope? 
PEER GYNT. Yes but I think 

He's just on the point of leaving there. 
THIN PERSON. Then I must start for there at once. 

I only hope I'm in time to catch him ! 

I've always had bad luck at the Cape 

It's full of missionaries from Stavanger. [Goes off southward. 

PEER GYNT. The silly creature ! He's off at a run 

On a wrong scent, too. He'll be disappointed. 

It was quite a pleasure to fool such a donkey. 

A nice chap, he, to give himself airs 

And come the superior over me ! 

He has nothing to give himself airs about ! 

He won't grow fat on his trade, I'll warrant ; 

He'll lose his job if he isn't careful. 

H'm ! I'm not so very secure in the saddle ; 

I am out of the * self '-aristocracy 

For good and all, as it seems to me. 

[A shooting-star flashes across the sky. He nods to it. 

Peer Gynt salutes you, Brother Star ! 

To shine to be quenched, and lost in the void. 

[Pulls himself together apprehensively and plunges deeper into the 
mist. After a short silence he calls out: 

Is there no one in the universe 


Peer Gynt 

Nor in the abyss, nor yet in heaven ? 

[Retraces his steps, throws his hat on the ground, and tears his hair. 

By degrees he grows calmer. 
So poor, so miserably poor 
May a soul return to the darkling mists 
And become as nothing. Beautiful earth, 
Forgive me for having trodden thee 
All to no purpose. Beautiful sun, 
Thy glorious rays have shone upon 
An empty shell no one within 
To receive warmth and comfort from thee ; 
The owner never in his house. 
Beautiful sun, beautiful earth, 
'Twas but for naught you warmed and nourished 
My mother. Nature is a spendthrift, 
And the Spirit but a greedy miser. 
One's life's a heavy price to pay 
For being born. I will go up, 
Up to the highest mountain-tops ; 
I'll see the sun rise once again, 
And gaze upon the promised land 
Until my eyes are weary. Then 
The snow may fall and cover me, 
And on my resting-place be written 
As epitaph : " The tomb of No One " ! 
And after that well, come what may. 
CHURCHFOLK [singing on the road]. Oh, blessed day when the Gift 

of Tongues 

Descended on earth in rays of fire ! 
O'er all the world creation sings 
The language of the heavenly quire! 


Peer Gynt 

PEER GYNT [crouching down in terror} . I will not look ! There's 

nothing there 

But desert waste. I am in terror 
Of being dead long ere my death. 

[Tries to steal into the thickets, but finds himself standing at cross- 

J irt/w,, [ 


Crossroads. PEER GYNT is confronted by the BUTTON-MOULDER. 

BUTTON-MOULDER. Good morning, Peer Gym ! Where's your list 

of sins ? 
PEER GYNT. I assure you that I have shouted and whistled 

For all I knew ! 

BUTTON-MOULDER. But yet found no one ? 
PEER GYNT. Only a travelling photographer. 
BUTTON-MOULDER. Well, your time is up. 
PEER GYNT. Everything's up. 

The owl smells a rat. Do you hear him hooting ? 

BUTTON-MOULDER. That's the matins-bell 

PEER GYNT [pointing]. What's that, that's shining? 

BUTTON-MOULDER. Only a light in a house. 

PEER GYNT. That sound 

Like wailing ? 

BUTTON-MOULDER. Only a woman's song. 
PEER GYNT. 'Tis there there I shall find my list 

Of sins! 

BUTTON-MOULDER [grasping him by the arm]. Come, set your house 
in order ! 
[They have come out of the wood, and are standing near SOLVEIG'S 

hut. Day is dawning. 
PEER GYNT. Set my house in order ? That's it ! Go ! 

Be off! Were your ladle as big as a coffin, 

I tell you 'twould not hold me and my list ! 

BUTTON-MOULDER. To the third crossroads, Peer ; but then ! 

[Moves aside and disappears. 


Peer Gynt 

PEER GYNT [approaching the hut]. Backward or forward, it's just as 


Out or in, the way's as narrow. [Stops. 

No ! Like a wild unceasing cry 
I seem to hear a voice that bids me 
Go in go back back to my home. 

[Takes a few steps, then stops again. 
" Round about," said the Boyg! 

[Hears the sound of singing from the hut, 

No ; this time 

It's straight ahead in spite of all, 
However narrow be the way ! 

[Runs towards the hut. At the same time SOLVEIG comes to the door, 

guiding her steps with a stick (for she is nearly blind). She is 

dressed for church and carries a prayer-book wrapped up in a 

handkerchief. She stands still, erect and gentle. 

PEER GYNT [throwing himself down on the threshold] . Pronounce the 

sentence on a sinner ! 

SOLVEIG. 'Tis he ! 'Tis he ! Thanks be to God ! [Gropes for him. 
PEER GYNT. Tell me how sinfully I have offended ! 
SOLVEIG. You have sinned in nothing, my own dear lad ! 

[Gropes for him again, and finds him. 
BUTTON-MOULDER [from behind the hut]. Where is that list of sins, 

Peer Gynt? 

PEER GYNT. Cry out, cry out my sins aloud ! 
SOLVEIG [sitting down beside him]. You have made my life a beauti- 
ful song. 

Bless you for having come back to me ! 
And blest be this morn of Pentecost! 
PEER GYNT. Then I am lost ! 

SOLVEIG. There is One who will help. 


Peer Gynt 

PEER GYNT [with a laugh]. Lost! Unless you can solve a riddle! 

SOLVEIG. What is it? 

PEER GYNT. What is it? You shall hear. 

Can you tell me where Peer Gynt has been 

Since last we met ? 

SOLVEIG. Where he has been ? 

PEER GYNT. With the mark of destiny on his brow- 
Hie man that he was when a thought of God's 

Created him ! Can you tell me that ? 

If not, I must go to my last home 

In the land of shadows. 
SOLVEIG [smiling]. That riddle's easy. 

PEER GYNT. Tell me, then where was my real self, 

Complete and true the Peer who bore 

The stamp of God upon his brow ? 
SOLVEIG. In my faith, in my hope, and in my love. 
PEER GYNT. What are you saying ? It is a riddle 

That you are speaking now. So speaks 

A mother of her child. 
SOLVEIG. Ah, yes ; 

And that is what I am ; but He 

Who grants a pardon for the sake 

Of a mother's prayers, He is his father. 

[A ray of light seems to flash on PEER GYNT. He cries out. 
PEER GYNT. Mother and wife ! You stainless woman ! 

Oh, hide me, hide me in your love ! 

[Clings to her and buries his face in her lap. There is a long silence. 

The sun rises. 
SOLVEIG [singing softly}. 

Sleep, my boy, my dearest boy ! 
I will rock you to sleep and guard you. 
R 255 

Peer Gynt 

The boy has sat on his mother's lap. 
The two have played the livelong day. 

The boy has lain on his mother's breast 
The livelong day. God bless you, my sweet ! 

The boy has lain so close to my heart 
The livelong day. He is weary now. 

Sleep, my boy, my dearest boy! 

I will rock you to sleep and guard you. 

[The BUTTON-MOULDER'S voice is heard from behind the hut. 
BUTTON-MOULDER. At the last crossroads I shall meet you, Peer ; 

Then we'll see whether ! I say no more. 

SOLVEIG [singing louder in the sunshine}. 

I will rock you to sleep and guard you ! 
Sleep and dream, my dearest boy ! 


This edition is from the translation of 
R. Farquharson Sharp, and is published 
by arrangement with Messrs J. M. Dent 
and Sons, Ltd. The book was printed in 
Edinburgh the text, in Bembo type, by 
Messrs R. & R. Clark, Ltd., the colour 
plates by Messrs McLagan & Gumming. 

Ibsen, H. PT 

Peer Gynt. .A3293